Skip to main content

Full text of "The story of the Fourth army in the battles of the hundred days, August 8th to November 11th, 1918"

See other formats


THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY 

IN THE BATtLES OF THE HUNDRED DAYS 

AUGUST 8^»T0 NOVEMBER U™ 1918 




MAJOR GENERAL SIR ARCHIBALD MONTGOMERY K.C.M.G..C.B. 

GENERAL STAFF, FOURTH ARMY 



THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY 



Frontispiece. 




GENERAL SIR HENRY RAWLINSON. 

{Commander of the Fourth Army.) 



THE STORY OF THE 

FOURTH ARMY 

IN THE BATTLES OF THE HUNDRED 

DAYS, August 8th to November llth, 1918 



BY MAJOR-GENERAL SIR 

ARCHIBALD MONTGOMERY 

K.G.M.G., G.B., 
GENERAL STAFF, FOURTH ARMY 

With a Foreword by 

General Lord Rawlinson 

G.G.B., G.G.V.O., K.G.M.G., A.D.G. 



HODDER AND STOUGHTON 
LIMITED LONDON 



J 



DEDICATED 

TO 

THE SOLDIERS FROM GREAT BRITAIN, IRELAND, AND THE DOMINIONS WHO BY THEIR 

SELF-SACRIFICE AND DOGGED DETERMINATION IN DEFENCE, AND THEIR INITIATIVE, 

RESOURCE, AND UNEQUALLED GALLANTRY IN ATTACK, TURNED DAYS OF 

DISASTER AND ALARMS INTO WEEKS OF SUCCESS AND VICTORY. 



" If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew 
To serve your turn long after they are gone, 
And so hold on when there is nothing in you 

Except the will which says to them, ' Hold on ' : 
***** 

If you can meet with triumph and disaster 
And treat these two impostors just the same : 
***** 

Yours is the earth and everything that's in it, 
And — which is more — you'll be a man, my son ! " 

— RuDYARD Kipling. 



FOREWORD 

By 
General Lord Rawlinson, G.C.B., G.C.V.O., K.C.M.G., A.D.C. 

There is no period in the history of the Great War which is of such 
transcendent interest to the soldier as that covered by this book. It is 
not too much to say that the events which took place in France during 
August, September, and October, 1918, constitute the greatest mihtary 
triumph the world has ever seen. 

This book, which is written by a soldier for soldiers, gives the first 
detailed account of any of the battles of the hundred days, and, for this 
reason, will be most valuable to all students of military history. The 
moment the armistice was signed steps were taken to lay the foundation 
of this work whilst events were still fresh in the memories of all who 
were directly concerned in the operations. As is well known, no written 
record of a fight can produce the mechanical accuracy of a cinematograph, 
but every possible endeavour has been made to avoid error and ascertain 
the truth. The numerous maps, photographs, and sketches have been 
the subject of especial labour and attention. They will not only enable 
readers who are unacquainted with the actual terrain to form some 
idea of the tactical features of the ground and to reahse the truly formidable 
natiu-e of the obstacles which confronted the troops, but will also serve as 
a permanent record of the general aspect of the country as it appeared 
in 1918. That such a record is needed will have been apparent to all 
who have visited the battlefields since the armistice. The gro^vth of 
vegetation has already obliterated to a great extent the scars of war, 
and before long the reconstruction of villages and resumption of 
cultivation will have so far transformed the landscape as to completely 
change the war aspect of the terrain. 

At the end of July, 1918, the opposing forces on the western front, 
after four years of unprecedented battling, still confronted one another 
without any decisive advantage having accrued to either side. The 
great German offensive of 1918 had no doubt failed, but the effect on the 
moral of the German Army, consequent on its failure, and combined with 
the result of the " wearing dovm " battles of 1916 and 1917, was still 
concealed from the world. We learn from the Ludendorff Memoirs that 
he himself dreaded, and had indeed suspected, a weakening in the German 
moral before this date, but to the world at large, as well as to the leaders 
of the Allied Armies, no reliable indication had so far been forthcoming. 



viii FOREWORD 

Preparations were even being made in Allied Countries for the produc- 
tion of military material to enable the war to be continued not only 
throughout 1919 but into 1920. The Fourth Army victory in front 
of Amiens on August 8th, with its tale of some 16,000 prisoners and 400 
guns, was the first indication of the true state of affairs in the enemy's 
camp. It restored permanently to the Allies the priceless weapon of 
the initiative, and aroused in the hearts of all the Allied Armies the 
confident hope that victory might be won in 1918. From evidence now 
available it is clear that our success on August 8th induced consternation 
at German General Headquarters. It caused Ludendorff to tender his 
resignation to Hindenburg, and produced from the Kaiser on August 14th 
a direct order to Secretary of State von Hintze to open peace negotiations.'^ 

Though at the time these facts were not revealed to us. Marshal 
Foch quickly realised that as a result of the battle of Amiens the moment 
for a general offensive had arrived. It was his continued pressiu-e on all 
fronts throughout August and September, that above all other factors 
brought triumph to the AUied Armies on the western front. The success 
of the Australians at Mont St. Quentin and Peronne, one of the most 
brilliant attacks carried out during the whole war, was further proof in 
early September that the resisting power of the enemy had declined 
considerably. It was not, however, until the third week in September 
when our Fourth, Third, and First Armies were confronted by the 
formidable defences of the Hindenburg Line, and the Canal de I'Escaut, 
that the momentous decision had to be taken as to whether it was worth 
while to accept the risk of one more supreme effort. 

There were those who doubted if the capture of these positions, 
defended as they were by the flower of the German Army, was possible, 
and I confess that, when in the early part of September I was asked my 
views on this point, I hesitated to give an answer, until we had fought 
our way to within striking distance of this great defensive system. 
However, when by the 21st September this had been accomplished, I 
gave it as my considered opinion that the capture of the Hindenburg 
Line was possible and that an attack on it offered good chances of success. 
No doubt there was a risk of failure. There always is, and at this 
particular moment failure might have had serious consequences, but, 
on the other hand, success would mean a speedy and victorious termination 
of the war and the saving of thousands of hves, to say nothing of millions 
of money. 

It is the essence of good strategy to force your enemy to fight in such 
a position that, whereas failure may cost you dear, success will bring 
disaster upon him. The positions of the Allied Armies on the western 
front at the end of September, 1918, fulfilled these conditions. ^\Tiat 
wonder then that military leaders with the genius and foresight of Foch 
and Douglas Haig declared emphatically for the immediate continuance 
of the offensive. That they were right in their judgment is abundantly 
clear from the fact that the first peace note was actually dispatched to 
the President of the United States on October 5th," though Ludendorff 
states that " the events of the 29th September and succeeding days did 

» " My War Memories," by Ludendorff, Vol. II., pp. 684 and 687 » Ibid., p. 730. 



FOREWORD ix 

not compel the Germans to sudden and momentous decisions."^ WTiat- 
ever he may say, the sequence of events and dates, and the evidence of 
the great victories won between St. Quentin and Cambrai during the last 
week of September, 1918, are overwhelming. 

It is probable, as he clearly points out, that the increasing danger 
of the situation on the western front had been withheld by the German 
Government from the German people. \Mien, therefore, the nation was 
suddenly confronted at the beginning of October with disaster, irre- 
trievable and immediate, it is not surprising that the people turned against 
their Kaiser's Government and brought down the whole edifice of Empire 
with a crash. The unexpected rapidity with which the armistice was 
forced upon the enemy is thus to some extent explained, for it was the 
direct consequence of overwhelming defeat on the field of battle, suddenly 
revealed to a nation utterly unprepared for such a reversal of fortune, 
and at the same time shaken physically and morally by the efficacy of 
our blockade and the far-reaching effects of our propaganda. 

It has been contended by some that the armistice was premature — 
that in another few weeks the German Army would have been forced to 
lay down their arms and surrender unconditionally. I do not hold this 
view. It is true that, in so far as the fighting troops of the Allies were 
concerned, a pronounced moral ascendency had been established in all 
the Allied Armies throughout the whole western front, and was daily 
increasing. Owing, however, to the thorough and systematic manner 
in which the Germans had destroyed all railways, roads, and bridges 
during their retreat, it was a physical impossibility for at least the British 
Armies, and I think for any of the Armies, to continue their advance 
rapidly and in strength, and to immediately follow up their successes. 
Had they done so, they would have starved. 

Turning to the composition of the Fourth Army during the period 
covered by this book, it is interesting to note that it consisted of men 
arawn from almost every part of the British Empire. AustraUans, 
Canadians, South Africans, as well as British and Americans. Several 
of the British divisions engaged had been decimated during the retreat 
in March, only four months previously, yet they commenced the offensive 
on August 8th and fought right through till November 11th, a fine example 
of that great British characteristic of " never knowing you are beaten." 
The dogged determination of the British divisions, backed by a fighting 
spirit which was beyond all praise, will be ever memorable as one of the 
main factors of the Fourth Army success. The Dominion troops won a 
reputation second to none ; the Australians by their skill and cunning 
as well as by their surpassing gallantry, the Canadians by their bold 
tactics and invincible will to conquer. The South Africans more than 
maintained the fighting reputation they had gained while with the 
9th Division. All units, no matter from what corners of the earth they 
came, struggled gallantly and in unison to beat the hated enemy. Of 
particular interest is the. fact that forming part of the Fourth Army 
during some of the most bitterly contested battles of this period, and in 
no way behind their comrades in gallantry and dash, were the men of the 

' " My War Memories," by Ludendorff, Vol. II., p. 719. 

b 



X FOREWORD 

II American Corps from Illinois, New York, Carolina, and Tennessee, 
names that conjure up memories of the fierce battles nearly sixty years 
ago during the civil war between the North and South, in which men of 
the English-speaking race were likewise fighting to the bitter end for a 
cause which they were convinced was just. The gallantry and dash of 
these American troops will never be forgotten by their comrades of the 
Fourth Army. 

It would be impossible to select for special praise any particular 
branch of the service, when all carried out their share and co-operated 
so effectively to the common end, but no factor did more to bring about 
success than the close and skilful co-operation with the infantry, of the 
various arms— cavalry, artillery, machine-gunners, engineers, the Air 
Force, and last but not least the tanks. There is always a tendency on 
the part of a new service like tanks, aeroplanes, or even machine-guns, 
when first employed in a general action, to think that they can win the 
battle " on their own," and it is a matter of time and careful training to 
get each arm to exert its maximum effort, not independently but in 
combination. To ensure this is no easy matter, but I attribute the success 
of the battles of the hundred days chiefly to three paramount factors : 
First, the unity of purpose and whole-hearted co-operation of all concerned ; 
secondly, the combined tactics of all the fighting services based on the 
lessons of four years of war ; and thirdly, the invincible will to conquer 
of every officer, non-commissioned officer, and man. 

I should like in conclusion to acknowledge the devoted work that 
has been done by the Fourth Army Staff, and particularly by Maj.-Gen. 
Sir A. A. Montgomery, not only in the compilation of this book, no small 
labour in itself, but by the invaluable assistance he and they rendered 
to me during these " Battles of the Hundred Days." No Commander has 
ever been better served by his Staff, and I know that, in the opinion of 
the Corps and Divisional Commanders who served in the Fourth Army 
during this momentous period, the Army Staff won both the respect and 
affection of the lower formations by their helpfulness and consideration 
in times of sunshine and of cloud. It is not too much to say that our 
general success during the hundred days, and the smoothness and 
efficiency with which the Army machine worked as a whole, was largely 
due to the knowledge, efficiency, and tact of the Staff Officers at Army 
Headquarters. 

Rawlinson, 

General. 
Government House, 
Aldershot, 

December, 1919. 



PREFACE 

This story has been compiled from the excellent accoimts of the 
operations which have been written by the staffs of the corps and divisions 
which served in the Fourth Army during the hundred days, supplemented 
by verbal information given by individual officers, and from the records 
of the Fourth Army during that period. Though in narrating the events 
of a period so crowded with incident there must of necessity be many 
omissions, this book will, it is hoped, be of interest to all who shared in 
the victories of the Fourth Army, victories which, in three months of 
hard and continuous fighting, carried it from within sight of Amiens 
over the frontiers of France near Avesnes. It is thought, moreover, 
that the impressions left at the time on the minds of those who took part 
in operations of such importance will be of interest to the military student 
and of value to the future historian when a complete history of the World 
War comes to be written. 

It is much regretted that it has not been possible to give the narrative 
of the doings of the II American Corps in so much detail as in the case 
of the other corps. This is due to the fact that the II American Corps 
left the Fourth Army soon after the Armistice to join the American Army, 
and that the reports received from it and from the 27th and 30th American 
Divisions did not furnish so many details as those sent in by the British, 
Australian, and Canadian Corps. 

The following officers of the Operations and Intelligence branches 
of the General Staff of the Foui-th Ai-my have taken a very large share 
in the compilation of this story and in the production of the battle maps 
which accompany it : — 

Lt.-Col. R. M. Luckock, Royal Lancaster Regiment, 

Lt.-Col. V. Vivian, Grenadier Guards, 

Captain R. C. Berkeley, Rifle Brigade, 

Captain C. Q. Taplin, Australian Imperial Forces, 

Captain D. W. Fiu-long, Royal Berkshire Regiment, 

and to them my sincere thanks are due. 

They are also due to Lieut. E. C. Gardiner, Devonshire Regiment, 
attached to the General Staff, Fourth Ai-my, who drew and prepared 
a large number of the maps for reproduction. 

To Major A. M. Gillies, Head of the Foiulh Army Printing and 
Stationery Services, for his help as regards the provision of photographs 
to illustrate the story, and to the Australian Imperial Force Publication 



xii PREFACE 

Department and the Canadian War Records for their kind permission 
to reproduce the photographs, taken by their special artists, to illustrate 
the part that the Australian and Canadian Corps took in the operations 
of the Fourth Army. To Captain F. E. Hodge, Royal Artillery, Fourth 
Army Artillery and Trench Mortar School, for the excellent sketches, 
which at much trouble to himself he has drawn especially for this book. 
To Sir Charles Close and Lt.-Col. W. J. Johnston, R.E., of the Ordnance 
Sxu-vey, Southampton, for the interest and trouble they have taken in 
the reproduction of the maps. To Major J. Ewing, 6th King's Own 
Scottish Borderers, and Lt.-Col. Cuthbert Headlam, for their assistance 
in checking and editing the narrative, and for many valuable suggestions. 
Nor must the clerks and draughtsmen of the Fourth Army Staff be for- 
gotten, some of whom delayed their demobilisation in order to help. 

This is a soldier's story of the achievements of officers and men, 
many of whom gave their lives or sacrificed their health in the cause 
of their coimtry, and it is proposed to devote any profits that may be 
derived from its sale to augmenting the funds which have been raised 
for assisting those gallant officers who have been disabled during the 
Great War, to whom the British Empire owes a debt that it can never 
repay, and by whom the British Army has been set an example that it 
can never forget. 

A. A. Montgomery, 

Major-General. 
Wargkave, 

Camberley, 

October, 1919. 

Note. — The titles of infantry battalions are given in full in the Orders of Battle in 
Appendix F, but in order to save space in the narrative the words " battalion " and 
" regiment " have been omitted, e.g., the 7th Battalion The Queen's Royal West Surrey 
Regiment, 2nd Battalion Royal Dublin Fusiliers, and l/5th Battalion Royal Warwickshire 
Regiment are referred to as the 7th The Queen's, 2nd Royal Dublin Fusiliers, and l/5th 
Royal Warwickshire. 

It will be noticed that in some cases the names of places, especially of woods and 
farms, are shown in English and French on the same map. This is due to our maps being 
in course of revision at the end of the war, but the work had not been completed. In 
order to avoid confusion the names of all places referred to in the text in their English 
form have been similarly shown on the maps which form the second volume of this book. 



CONTENTS 

CHAPTER I 

INTRODUCTORY 

Maps 1 and 2 

The value of moral — Human nature — The situation in front of Amiens at the end of March, 
1918 — The loss of Villers Bretonneux, April 24th — A comparison with the Waterloo 
campaign — The recapture of Villers Bretonneux — Events on other parts of the Western 
front in April, May, June, and July^The first signs of the weakening of the moral of the 
German Army — The situation on the Fourth Army front after April 24th — The Aus- 
tralians — The capture of Hamel on July 4th, and its lessons — Plans for a counter- 
offensive — The surprise attack on August 8th — The Third and Tenth French Armies and 
the Third British Army join in the offensive — The complete loss of the initiative by the 
Germans — The British moral — The First British Army extends the front of attack 
to the north — The crisis of the counter-offensive, September 26th-29th — The capture of 
the Hindenburg Line — The crossing of the Selle and Sambre rivers — German demoralis- 
ation — The Armistice — General Ludendorfl and German moral 



CHAPTER II 

PREPARATIONS FOR THE OFFENSIVE 

Maps 1, 2, and 3 

The situation in the middle of July on the Fourth Army front — The concentration of troops 
— The reorganisation of the front prior to the attack — The nature of the country — 
The hostile defences — The strength and moral of the enemy — The strategic objectives of 
the attack — Secrecy, the basis of the plan of attack — The conditions affecting the plan — 
The frontage of the attack — The objectives — The synchronisation of the attack — The 
allotment of tanks — The role of the cavalry — The role of the Royal Air Force — The role 
of the Artillery,Engineers, and Machine Gun Corps — The issue of maps and photographs — 
The danger of hostile gas shelling during the assembly of troops — IVDnor hostile attacks 
on August 3rd and August 6th — The assembly of the troops — The forming up of the 
infantry — The hour of " zero " — The confidence of the troops 11 



CHAPTER III 

THE BATTLE OF AiUENS ; THE ATTACK OF AUGUST 8TH 

Maps 2 and 3 ; and Panoramic Photograph 1 

summary of events on August 8th — The plan of attack of the Canadian Corps — The 
attack of the 3rd Canadian Division — The Franco-British liaison force — The 
advance of the 1st and 2nd Canadian Divisions to the first objective — Their further 
advance to the second objective^The advance of the 4th Canadian Division to the 
third objective — The capture of the third objective by the 1st and 2nd Canadian 
Divisions — The result of the day's fighting by the Canadian Corps — The Australian 
Corps plan of attack — The advance of the 2nd and 3rd Australian Divisions to the 
first objective — The capture of the second objective by the 4th and 5th Australian 
Divisions — ^The armoured cars — ^The advance of the 4th and 5th Australian Divisions 



xiv CONTENTS 



PAOI 



to the third objective — The result of the day's fighting by the Australian 
Corps — The action of the Cavalry Corps — The III Corps plan of attack — 
The disposition of the troops at " zero " — The attack on the first objective — The 
advance against the second objective — The result of the day's fighting by the III 
Corps — The work of the Royal Air Force — The attack by the First French Army — The 
situation on the Fourth Army front on the evening of August 8th — The orders for 
August 9th 81 



CHAPTER IV 

THE BATTLE OF AMIENS {continued) AUGUST 9TH-11TH, 
AND THE EVENTS OF AUGUST 12TH-21ST 

Maps 1, 2, 3, and 4 

August 9th — The Canadian Corps — The capture of Le Quesncl — The action of the 
2nd and 1st Cavalry Divisions — The advance of the 3rd, 1st, and 2nd Canadian 
Divisions — The Australian Corps — The III Corps operations — The attack on the 
Chipilly Spur — The situation on the night of August 9th — The reallotment of 
front between the Australian and III Corps — The orders for August 10th — August 
10th ; the Canadian Corps ; the Chilly and Le Quesnoy operations — The Australian 
Corps ; the advance on Lihons — The attacks astride the Somme by the 3rd and 4th 
Australian Divisions and the 131st American Regiment — The complete occupation 
of the Amiens outer defences by the III Corps — The orders for August 11th — 
August 11th ; the Canadian Corps — Heavy hostile counter-attacks — The Australian 
Corps ; the capture of Lihons — The general situation on August 11th ; the Army 
Commander's conference — A lull in the battle — Events from August 12th-16th — 
August 17th ; instructions from General Headquarters — The progress of the First 
French Army, August llth-20th — The reorganisation of the front of the Fourth 
Army — The German dUemma — The results of the Battle of Amiens .... 52 

CHAPTER V 

THE ADVANCE TO PERONNE, AUGUST 21ST-30TH 

Maps 2, 4, and 5 

August 21st ; the opening of the second phase ; the general policy — The III Corps plan of 
attack for August 22nd — August 22nd ; the artillery support — The attack by the 47th 
and 12th Divisions — The capture of Albert by the 18th Division — The advance of the 
3rd Australian Division — The German counter-attack in the Happy Valley — August 
23rd ; the operations of the Australian Corps south of the Somme — The general plan 
of attack — The first phase of the Australian Corps attack — The second phase — The 
third phase ; the capture of Chuignes — The action of the 32nd Division — The capture of 
Tara and Usna Hills — August 24th ; the capture of Bray-sur-Somme and Becordel Becourt 
by the Australian and III Corps — The situation on the Fourth Army front on the night 
of August 24th — The readjustment of the Australian Corps friynt south of the Somme — 
August 23th; the capture of Ceylon AVood and Fricourt — Our artillery policy — 1 he enemy's 
retirement in front of the Third Army — The events of August 26th — The action of the 
hostile artillery — August 27th ; the renewal of the pressure south of the Somme — 
The co-operation of the First French Army with the Australian Corps — The events 
north of the Somme- — The capture of Trones AVood by the 18th Division — The events 
of August 28th— The events of August 29th ; our troops reach the banks of the Somme 
south of Peronne — The advance north of the Somme on August 30th .... 71 

CHAPTER VI 

THE BATTUE OF MONT ST. QUENTIN, AUGUST SOTH-SEPTEMBEE 2ND , AND 
THE EVENTS OF SEPTEMBER 3ED AND 4TH 

Maps 4, 6, and 7 

The situation on August 30th — The forcing of the river crossing ; the 
Australian Corps plan — First phase ; August 30th ; the seizure of a bridgehead 
south-east of Clery-sur-Somme— Second phase ; August 31st ; the attack on !Mont 



CONTENTS XV 

PAQB 

St. Quentin by the 5th Australian Brigade — The advance of the 6th Australian 
Brigade — The action of the 3rd Australian Division and the III Corps — September 
1st ; the attack continued — The 1-ith Australian Brigade enters Peronne — The capture 
of the village of Mont St. Quentin by the 6th Australian Brigade — The advance of 
the 3rd Australian Division — The operations of the III Corps ; the attatks 
of the 58th and 47th Divisions — The 18th Division attack — The situation 
on the evening of September 1st — September 2nd ; the exploitation of success 
— The attack of the 5th Australian Division — The attack of the 2nd Australian 
Division— The operations of the III Corps — The events of September 3rd and 
4th— The results of the Battle of Mont St. Quentin — The general situation on 
September 4th 96 



CIL\PTER VII 

THE ADVANCE TO THE HINDENBURG UXE, SEPTEMBER 5TH-28TH 

Maps 1, 2, 4, 8, and 9 ; and Panoramic Photographs 4 and 5 

The readjustment of the front — September 5th ; the enemy in full retreat — September 6th 
and 7th ; the pursuit — The co-operation of the Royal Air Force — The events of Sep- 
tember 8th — The situation on September 9th — September 10th ; the fighting on the 
flanks at Holnon Wood and Epehy — September 11th ; the arrival of the IX Corps ; 
the readjustment of the front — The general situation on September 11th — Sir Henry 
Rawlinson's proposals — The proposals approved — September 12th to 17th ; minor 
operations — The preliminary arrangements for the attack on September 18th — The 
objectives — The frontages of attack — The artillery arrangements — The allotment of 
tanks — A summary of the Fourth Army attack on September 18th — The assembly of 
the IX Corps — The first phase of the IX Corps attack — The second phase — The result 
of the day's fighting by the IX Corps — The assembly of the Australian Corps — The 
first phase of the Australian Corps attack — The second phase — The third phase — The 
result of the day's fighting by the Australian Corps — The assembly of the III Corps — The 
first phase of the III Corps attack — The 74th Division attack — The 18th Division attack 
— The attacks of the 12th and 58th Divisions — The second phase of the III Corps 
attack — The result of the day's fighting by the III Corps — The situation on September 
19th — The events on the IX Corps front on September 19th and 20th — The events 
on the III Corps front on September 19th and 20th — The decision to attack the Hinden- 
burg Line ; the Fourth Army reinforced — The readjustment of the front — The III 
Corps attacks on September 21st-22nd — The IX Corps operations on September 24th — 
The pressure maintained by the IX Corps on September 25th and 26th — The bombard- 
ment of the Hindenburg Line begun on September 26th — Minor operations by the 27th 
and 30th American Divisions on September 26th and 27th — The attacks of the Allied 
Armies on other parts of the front — The situation on the Fourth Army front on Sep- 
tember 28th 114 



CHAPTER VIII 

THE STORMING OF THE HINDENBURG LINE, SEPTEMBER 29tH 

Maps 2, 8, and 10 ; and Panoramic Photographs 6 and 7 

The German defences — The preparations for the attack — The communications — Secrecy — 
The temporary amalgamation of the Australian and II American Corps — The frontages 
of attack— The objectives — The co-ordination with flank armies — The artfllerj- — The 
preliminary bombardment — The ammunition supply — The allotment of tanks — The 
special mission of the 5th Cavalry Brigade and the armoured cars — The role of the Cavalry 
Corps — The assembly of the troops — The assault — The IX Corps ; the action of the 
1st Division — The capture of the first objective by the 46th Division — The advance of the 
82nd Division to the second objective — The result of the day's fighting by the IX Corps — 
The Australian-American Corps ; the attack of the American divisions — The 30th 
American Division — The 27th American Division — The action of the 5th Australian 
Division — The action of the 3rd Australian Division — The armoured cars — The III 
Corps operations — The situation of the III Corps at dusk — The result of the battle — 
The orders for September 30th 147 



xvi CONTENTS 



CHAPTER IX 

THE COMPLETION OF THE CAPTURE OF THE HINDENBURG DEFENCES, SEPTEMBER SOTH- 
OCTOBER '2nd, and THE CAPTURE OF THE BEAUREVOIR LINE, OCTOBER 3RD-5TH 

Maps 2, 10, 11, and 12 

PAQI 

September 30th ; the advance of the IX Corps — The plan of operations of the Australian 
Corps — The attack of the 5th Australian Division — The attack of the 3rd Australian Divi- 
sion — The action of the III Corps — October 1st ; the IX Corps operations ; the 32nd 
Division attack — The attack of the Australian Corps continued — The III Corps relieved 
by the XIII Corps — October 2nd ; the action of the IX Corps — The relief of the 3rd 
and 5th Australian Divisions — The situation on the evening of October 2nd — The orders 
for the attack on October 3rd — The objectives and frontages of the attack — October 3rd ; 
the IX Corps attack; the action of the 1st Division — The attacks of the 32nd and 
46th Divisions — The action of the XV French Corps — The Australian Corps ; the 
attack of the 2nd Australian Division — The XIII Corps ; the attack of the 50th Division 
— The result of the day's fighting — The orders for the continuance of the attack on 
October 4th — October 4th ; the action of the IX Corps — The action of the 2nd 
Australian Division — The XIII Corps attack — The progress of the First French Army — 
The plan of attack for the capture of Montbrehain and Beaurevoir — October 5th ; 
the IX Corps at Mannequin HiU — The capture of Montbrehain by the 2nd Australian 
Division — The XIII Corps ; the capture of Beaurevoir by the 25th Division — The 
advance of the 50th Division north of Gouy, and of the 38th Division of the V Corps — 
The result of the day's fighting — The relief of the Australian Corps by the II American 
Corps on October 6th — The work of the Royal Air Force — A review of the situation on 
October 6th — Sir Douglas Haig's orders for the continuance of the offensive . . . 170 



CHAPTER X 

THE ADVANCE TO LE CATEAU, OCTOBER 6TH-16TH 

Maps 2, 12, 13, and 14 

The nature of the country east of the Beaurevoir line — The objectives for the attack on 
October 8th — The role of the Cavalrj' — The allotment of tanks — Artillery action — The 
disposition of troops on the Fourth Army front on October 6th — The events of October 
6th and 7th — October 8th ; the attack of the IX Corps — The attack of the II American 
Corps — The attack of the XIII Corps— The result of the day's fighting — The orders and 
objectives for the continuance of the advance on October 9th — October 9th ; the 
attack — The action of the cavalry — The capture of Honnechy — Further objectives 
ordered — The action of the armoured cars — The result of the fighting — October 10th ; 
the advance resumed ; cavalry action — The infantry advance — The attacks of the 
25th and 66th Divisions on St. Benin and Le Cateau — -The events of October 11th — 
The orders from General Headquarters for the continuance of the offensive — The 
preparations for the attack — The nature of the country ; the Selle — Le Cateau — The 
readjustment of the front — The dispositions of the troops — The objectives — Informa- 
tion regarding the enemy — The detailed arrangements for the attack 192 



CHAPTER XI 

THE BATTLE OF THE SELLE, OCTOBER 17TH-19TH ; AND THE EVENTS TO OCTOBER 31 ST 

Maps 2, 13, 14, and 15 

The plan of attack of the IX Corps — The dispositions of the 46th Division — The attack of 
the 46th Division — The attack of the 6th Division — The dispositions of the 1st Division 
— The attack of the 1st Division — The result of the day's fighting by the IX Corps — 
The dispositions of the II American Corps — The attack of the II American Corps — The 
dispositions of the XIII Corps — The attack of the 50th Division — Tank action — The 
plan of attack of the 66th Division — The South African Brigade attack — The result 
of the fighting on October 17th — The army orders for the attack on October 18th — 
Further orders from General Headquarters — October 18th ; the attack of the IX Corps 
—The attack of the II American Corps — The preparations for the attack of the XIII 



CONTENTS xvii 

PAOB 

Corps — The attack of the 50th and 66th Divisions — The events of October 19th — The 
result of the Battle of the Selle — The army orders for the advance to be continued 
on October 23rd^ Artillery and tanks — The readjustment of the front — The nature of the 
country — The detailed orders for the attack on October 23rd — The IX Corps plan — 
The XIII Corps plan — October 23rd ; the attack of the IX Corps — The attack of the 
XIII Corps — The 25th Division attack — The 18th Division attack — The action of the 
tanks — The result of the day's fighting ; army orders issued for the attack to be 
continued on October 24th — October 24th ; the IX Corps attack — The XIII Corps 
attack — The result of the fighting on the 23rd and 24th — Minor operations from October 
25th to 31st — The progress north and south of the Fourth Army — A summary of the 
situation on October 31st 209 



CHAPTER XII 

THE CROSSING OF THE SAMBEE AND OISE CANAL, AND THE EVENTS LEADING UP TO THE 

ARMISTICE, NOVEMBER IST-llTH 

Maps I, 2, 16, and 17 

The situation prior to the resumption of the Allied offensive — The orders from General Head- 
quarters for a general advance — The preliminary operations by the IX Corps — The 
general plan for the attack on November 4th — The nature of the country ; the Sambre 
and Oise Canal — The Mormal Forest — The country east of the Sambre and Oise Canal — 
The objectives of the attack — The IX Corps plan of attack — The XIII Corps plan of 
attack — The action of the artillery — The preparations for bridging the canal — The 
allotment of tanks — The assembly — November 4th ; the IX Corps ; the attack of the 1st 
Division ; the crossing of the canal by the 2nd Brigade — The 1st Brigade crossing — 
The capture of Catillon by the 3rd Brigade — The further advance of the 1st Division — 
The result of the fighting by the 1st Division — The attack of the 32nd Division ; the 
14th Brigade force a crossing — The temporary check to the 96th Brigade — The capture 
of the Happegarbes spur — The further advance of the 32nd Division — The XIII Corps 
operations ; the capture of Landreeies by the 25th Division — The 50th Division attack 
through Mormal Forest — The attack by the 18th Division — The armoured cars — The 
result of the fighting on November 4th — The pursuit ; November 5th and 6th ; 
the events on the IX Corps front — The events on the XIII Corps front — The pursuit 
continued on November 7th, 8th, and 9th — The IX Corps — The XIII Corps — The 
question of supply — Bethell's Force — The frontier of France reached on November 
10th — The Armistice, 11 a.m., November 11th 239 



CHAPTER XIII 

CONCLUSION 

Some tactical questions — The co-operation of all arms — Surprise — Flank attacks — Simul- 
taneous attacks — Attack formations and the number of men required — Counter-attacks 
— " Zero " — The rate of advance of the barrage — The creeping barrage — Pre-war text- 
books — Col. Henderson and the " human " side of war — Initiative and discipline . . 263 



APPENDICES 

PAQE 

(A). — Comparative Table, for the months of March to November, 1918, showing 

captures, casualties, and reinforcements of the Fourth Army 275 

(B). — Table giving the battle casualties suffered, and the prisoners captured, by the 
Fourth Army in the operations between August 8th and November 11th, 1918, 
shown by Corps 276 

(C). — Table showing the losses in prisoners suffered by German divisions, and the 
number of times these divisions were engaged by the Fourth Army, between 
August 8th and November 11th, 1918 277 

(D). — Table showing the rate of absorption of German divisions between August 8th 

and November 11th, 1918 278 

(E).— V.C. Stories 280 

(F). — The Fourth Army Orders of Battle for August 8th, September 29th, and 

November 4th, 1918 301 

(G). — Table showing the daily ammunition expenditure by the Fourth Army from 

August 8th to November 11th, 1918 328 

(H). — Extracts from captured German orders issued during the first half of 

September, 1918 332 

(J). — Notes on machine-gun organisation and tactics 334 

(K). — The adventures of a Whippet tank on August 8th 336 



zTiii 



ILLUSTRATIONS AND MAPS 

SKETCHES 
By Captain F. E. Hodge 

To fact vagt 

1. Panorama looking north-west from Villers Bretonneux 1 

2. The Red Chateau at Villers Bretonneux from the Corbie road .... 4 

3. Peronne and Mont St. Quentin from La Maisonette 93 

4. Mont St. Quentin from the Bapaume-Peronne road 97 

5. Old Gateway in Peronne. " La Porte de Bretagne " 113 

6. Bellenglise and the St. Quentin Canal 151 

7. Bellicourt and the wire in front of the Hindenburg Line 152 

8. Beaurevoir and Beaurevoir Mill 177 

9. Le Cateau from the Honnechy road 192 

10. The lock and bridge at Landrecies 258 

DIAGRAMS 

Diagram I, showing the assembly areas of the Australian Corps prior to August 8th . 27 

Diagram II, showing the forming up of a brigade for a trcneh-to-trench attack . 29 

Sketch Map of the attack of the 9th Canadian Brigade on August 8th .... 84 

Tartan Diagram III, showing the employment of divisions in the Fourth Army from 

August to November, 1918 262 



MAPS 

{In map case) 

1. The western theatre of war (showing Army boundaries on August 8th) 

1/1,000,000 

2. The successive phases of the Fourth Army advance. 1 /250,000 

3. The attack of August 8th. Battle of Amiens. 1/40,000 

4. The advance to Peronne. 1/40,000 



XX ILLUSTRATIONS AND MAPS 

5. The attack of the 32nd Division and 1st Australian Division on August 23rd. 

1/20,000 

6. The capture of Mont St. Quentin, August 31st to September 1st. 1/20,000 

7. The attack of the 18th Division at Fregicourt, September 1st. 1/20,000 

8. The attack on the outer defences of the Hindenbiu-g Line, September 18th. 

1/40,000 

9. The operations of the III Corps, September 19th to 22nd. 1/20,000 

10. The storming of the Hindenburg Line, September 29th to October 2nd. 1/20,000 

11. The capture of the Beaiurevoir Line, October 3rd to 5th. 1/20,000 

12. The advance to Le Cateau. 1/40,000 

18. The IX and II American Corps at the Battle of the Selle, October 17th to 19th. 
1/40,000 

14. The XIII Corps at the Battle of the Selle, October 17th and 18th. 1/20,000 

15. The IX and XIII Corps attack on October 23rd and 24th. 1/40,000 

16. The advance to Avesnes. 1/40,000 

17. The crossing of the Sambre and Oise Canal, November 4th. 1/20,000 

18. Barrage Map (46th Division, IX Corps on September 29th). 1/20,000 

19. Machine-gun tasks for the attack of the 4th Austrahan Division on September 

18th. 1/20,000 

PANORAMIC PHOTOGRAPHS 

To /ace pai7« 

1. The country looking east from Villers Bretonneux {in map case) 

2. The Chipilly Spur from the Cerisy-Morcourt road 48 

3. Mont St. Quentin from the south-west 99 

4. Holnon Wood from the west {in map case) 

5. Epehy and Peizieres from the west „ 

6. View of the country west of the Hindenburg Line as seen from a German balloon 

{in map case) 

7. The Spoil-bank of the Bellicourt Tunnel as seen from Bony ... „ 

8. Bony from the west 172 

9. Beaurevoir and Bellevue Farm from the west 187 

PHOTOGRAPHS 

1. General Sir Henry RawUnson, Commander of the Fourth Army . . Frontispiece 

To face page 

2. Villers Bretonneux, as seen from the German Lines 2 

3. An Australian platoon receiving instructions from its commander prior to an 

attack 6 

4. Australians, and Americans of the 38rd Illinois Division, resting near Corbie 

on their way up to the line on July 3rd 6 



ILLUSTRATIONS AND MAPS xxi 

To face page 

5. Group taken at the headquarters of the Fourth Army at FHxecourt on August 

13th, 1918, on the occasion of the visit of his Majesty the King ... 10 

6. Malard Wood from the north-west 14 

7. The Somme valley and the Chipilly Spur. 14 

8. The valley of the Luce at Hangard 15 

9. The high ground between the Luce and the Avre from west of Domart . . 15 

10. Domart and the Hourges bridgehead 26 

11. Rifle Wood 38 

12. Canadian Engineers filling in the crater blown by the Germans in the 

bridge at Hangard 35 

13. Canadians capturing a German gun near Mezieres 85 

14. A 4'2-inch howitzer battery captured by the Canadians on August 8th . . 37 

15. Prisoners captured by the Australians passing burning dumps in the Cerisy- 

Warfusee valley 40 

16. Armoured car temporarily held up by fallen trees on the Villers Bretonneux-Brie 

road 42 

17. Chipilly and Cerisy-Gailly 42 

18. The cavalry dismounted near Framerville 45 

19. Sailly Laurette 46 

20. The 11-inch Naval gim on railway mounting captured by the Royal Air 

Force and Australians on August 8th 50 

21. French and Canadian troops on the Roye road 50 

22. Some of the guns taken on August 8th 51 

28. Some of the prisoners captured on August 8th 51 

24. A Canadian armoxired lorry going into action along the Roye road on August 9th 58 

25. A tank dealing with a German machine-gun post on the railway near Lihons . 54 

26. Crepey Wood 55 

27. Gressaire Wood 56 

28. A large dump of engineer material captured at Rosi^res 57 

29. Mark V tanks advancing across the open near Le Quesnoy 58 

80. Canadian cavalry resting on August 10th 58 

31. Crepey and Auger Woods 59 

32. A trench near Lihons captured by the Australians on August 10th ... 59 
83. Etinehem and the Somme marshes 60 

34. The Somme Canal near Mericourt, with a pontoon bridge blown up by the 

Germans in the foreground 61 

35. Lihons 62 

36. Canadians on a Mark V tank behind our lines 66 

37. Prisoners arriving at the Army cage on the Amiens-Doullens road on 

August 8th 68 



xxii ILLUSTRATIONS AND MAPS 

To face page 

38. Albert and the ground to the south-east 73 

39. British infantry in Albert on August 22nd 76 

40. Australian pioneers digging in on the high ground overlooking Bray, while the 

enemy still held the village 77 

41. The 15-inch gun captured by the Australians in the Arcy Woods ... 81 

42. The steep and difficult country near Chuignolles, with Froissy Beacon in the 

background 81 

43. Sir Douglas Haig congratulating Canadian troops a few days after the battle of 

August 8th 85 

44. Carnoy and Billon Wood 85 

45. Australians clearing a dug-out near Cappy on August 26th 87 

46. Montauban 87 

47. Peronne and its suburbs 94 

48. Anvil Wood and Fiorina Trench 100 

49. Gaps in the wire through which the Australians had to pass when attacking 

Anvil Wood 100 

50. Australian infantry moving up a trench previous to attacking Mont St. Quentin 100 
51 Australians charging the brick wall on Mont St. Quentin on September 1st . 105 

52. The Canal du Nord, AUaines and Haut-Allaines 106 

53 Peronne, St. Denis and Anvil Wood 109 

54. A smoke-screen thrown across the hills east of Peronne to cover the advance 

of AustraUan patrols on September 5th 116 

55. The causeway over the Somme at Brie, taken from the east bank . . . 116 
66. Fresnoy-le-Petit and Gricourt 127 

57. Australians advancing close up to the barrage on September 18th . . . 128 

58. Australian reserves watching the barrage creeping up the slopes towards the 

outer defences of the Hindenburg Line on September 18th .... 128 

69. A typical German trench near Cologne Farm 130 

60. Germans surrendering to the AustraUans on September 18th .... 130 

61. Templeux le Guerard and the Quarries 132 

62. Gillemont Farm, showing the result of the shelling to which it had been 

subjected both in 1917 and in March and September, 1918 .... 137 

63. Fourth Army Headquarters established in a camouflaged camp at Eterpigny, 

near Peronne, in September, 1918 146 

64. The thick belts of wire defending the Bellicourt Tunnel . . ... 149 

65. Bellenglise, showing the underground tunnel in course of construction. . . 149 

66. The area over which the right of the IX Corps attacked on September 29th . 158 

67. The St. Quentin Canal ; one of the places where the 46th Division crossed. . 158 

68. Another part of the St. Quentin Canal, where a crossing was effected by the 

46ih Div-ision 158 



ILLUSTRATIONS AND MAPS xxiii 

To face page 

69. Bellenglise showing the exits from the tunnel . 159 

70. The wire protecting Bellicourt 162 

71. The southern entrance of the St. Quentin Canal tunnel at Bellicourt . . , 162 

72. Nauroy and the surrounding country 164 

73. Australians moving along a trench near Gillemont Farm . . . .166 

74. Le Tronquoy 170 

75. Bony and the ground to the north-east 172 

76. Sequehart 173 

77. The wire in front of the Beaurevoir Line 180 

78. Gouy, Le Catelet, and Macquincourt Farm 183 

79. Fourth Army Advanced Headquarters established in a railway train at 

Montigny Farm, near Roisel, during the first two weeks of October, 1918 . 191 

80. Montbrehain and Brancourt le Grand I95 

81. Riquerval Wood 201 

82. French inhabitants coming back to their homes in Maretz 202 

83. The Selle south of Le Cateau 204 

84. The Selle at the southern outskirts of St. Souplet 205 

85. St. Martin Rivere 216 

86. St. Crepin and Bandival Farm 217 

87. View looking east from the high ground above Le Cateau 218 

88. The Selle just north of Le Cateau, where the South African Brigade crossed . 223 

89. The high ground overlooking the Sambre and Oise Canal 229 

90. The enclosed country between the Selle and Sambre 231 

91. The southern outskirts of Englefontaine and Mormal Forest .... 237 

92. The Sambre and Oise Canal, showing the reservoirs on each side . . . 241 

93. Mormal Forest, showing some of the clearings 242 

94. The Sambre and Oise Canal between Catillon and Oisy, showing the Lock-house 

at Lock No. 1, where the 2nd Brigade, 1st Division, crossed , . . 244 

95. The Lock-house at Lock No. 1 and the reservoirs on the Sambre and Oise Canal 247 

96. The Lock-house from the west 248 

97. Another part of the Sambre and Oise Canal south of Catillon, showing the 

bri('ges by which the 1st Brigade, 1st Division, crossed . . . ? . 248 

98. Catillon from the west 249 

99. Preux aux Bois and Mormal Forest 254 

100. The Fourth Army Commander and the Army Headquarters, July, 1918 . . 272 



m 



l'6pl«i> <!n Anii»iii — Albert mad 



*-„fc.\o. 1, .»/-<. I«r1 



.<^-'-?//./,. 







\'illtr. II... ' ■Tl 

Panf.rama looking north-vvc^t from VILLERS BRETONXEL X 



THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY 



CHAPTER I 

INTRODUCTORY 

Maps 1 and 2 

The value of moral — Human nature — The situation in front of Amiens at the end of March, 1918 
— The loss of Villers Bretonneux, April 24th — A comparison with the Waterloo campaign — 
The recapture of Villers Bretonneux — Events on other parts of the Western front in April, 
May, Jime, and July — The first signs of the weakening of the moral of the German Army — 
The situation on the Fourth Army front after April 24th — The Australians — The capture 
of Hamel on July 4th, and its lessons — Plans for a counter-offensive — The surprise attack on 
August 8th — The Third and Tenth French Armies and the Third British Army join in the 
offensive — The complete loss of the initiative by the Germans — The British moral — The First 
British Army extends the front of attack [to the north — The crisis of the counter-offensive, 
September 26th-29th — The capture of the Hindenburg Line — The crossing of the Selle and 
Sambre rivers — German demoralisation — The Armistice — General Ludendorff and German 
moral. 

Although the story of the Fourth Army in the Battles of the 
Hundred Days, strictly speaking, begins with the attaek on August 8th, 
the events of the previous four months had sueh an important bearing on 
the subsequent operations that something more than a passing reference 
to them is essential. 

While it is now realised that the moral effect of the successful attack 

of the Fourth Army on August 8th directly influenced the fighting spirit 

of the whole of the British Army in France, it is not 

'morai^ SO generally known that this victory could not have 

been won without the steady and continuous offensive 

of the Australian Corps throughout the months of April, May, June, and 

July. To its remarkable achievements during these months may be 

attributed to a very large extent the increase in moral, which was 

necessary in order to make the battle of August 8th a complete success, 

or even a possibility. 

The incalculable value of moral stands out as the greatest of the 
many lessons that are impressed on us by the period from ]\Iarch 21st 
to the Battle of Amiens and the months that followed. We most of us 
remember Napoleon's dictum that " in war moral force is to the physical 
as 3 to 1," but it has been the good fortune of few soldiers to witness 
so remarkable an example of the truth of this maxim. 

As Col. Henderson tells us ^ — " Human nature, the paramount 

> " The Science of War." " Notes on Wellington," p. 101. 

B 



2 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY 

consideration of either tactics or strategy, remains unaltered. The art 

of generalship, the art of command, whether the force be large or small, 

is the art of dealing with human nature." And again,'^ 

Human nature " the first thing is to realise that in war we have to 

do not so much with numbers, arms, and manceuvres 

as with human nature. What did Napoleon find in the history of the 

campaigns of Alexander, Hannibal, and Julius Caesar ? Not merely a 

record of marches and manceuvres, of the use of entrenchments, or of 

the general principles of attack and defence. No, he found in those 

campaigns a complete study of human nature under the conditions that 

exist in war, human nature affected by discipline, by fear, by the need of 

food, by want of confidence, by over confidence, by the weight of 

responsibility, by political interests, by patriotism, by distrust, and by 

many other things." 

Those who followed the anxious days of March and April, 1918, the 
dawn of brighter days in May and June, and the final fulfilment of their 
hopes in August, September, and October, have seen these things for them- 
selves. These months will live in military history for all time. They are 
yet one more proof of the great Corsican's knowledge of men and wai: 
and a lasting testimony to the value of Col. Henderson's writings. 

It will be remembered that the Fifth Army, attacked by overwhelming 
odds on March 21st, had, in spite of a determined resistance, been driven 
The situation in front ^ack to the neighbourhood of Amiens. It had suffered 
of Amiens at the end hea\y losses, the men were physically exhausted after 
of March, 1918 ^^en days of continuous marching and fighting, and for 
the time being their moral had been seriously affected. But they were 
not a beaten army. They required rest and sleep, and, when they 
obtained these, it was astonishing to see how quickly they recovered, and 
thus demonstrated once again the indomitable spirit of the British soldier. 

On INIarch 28th, when the Fifth Army Headquarters were relieved 
by the Fourth Army Headquarters, ^ the situation about Amiens was 
found to be extremely critical. Not only had all reserves been absorbed 
into the firing line some days previously, but a considerable part 
of the actual firing line itself consisted of a force,^ rapidly impro- 
vised from elements of different units and in many cases under strange 
officers, hastily thrown together in the emergency to oppose the enemy's 
further advance. The Germans continued to press forward, but, fortunately, 
the greater part of the Cavalry Corps and the 9th Australian Brigade 
arrived to reinforce the Fourth Army, and brought the enemy's advance 
to a halt until April 4th and 5th, when a strong German attack drove 
back our line once again to a point on the eastern outskirts of Villers 
Bretonneux. Here, thanks principally to the timely arrival of three 
more Australian brigades, the line remained stationary until April 24th, 
on which date the enemy made his final attempt to capture Amiens. 

Attacking after a heavy bombardment and assisted by tanks, the 

• " The Science of War." " Lessons from the Past for the Present," p. 174. 

2 The Fourth Army Headquarters were re-formed for this purpose under General Sir Henry 
Rawlinson, who, for the previous six weeks, had been the British Representative of the Supreme 
War Council at Versailles. 

' Known as " Carey's Force " 





CO 






z 
03 



X 

M 
Z 

z 

o 



INTRODUCTORY 3 

Germans in the early hours of the morning succeeded in capturing Villers 

Bretonneux, The possession of this village and of the neighbouring high 

ground enabled the Germans to obtain direct obser- 

The loss °^^^""^jjj vation down the valley of the Somme almost as far as 

re onneux, pn Amicns, and of part of the Hallue valley. It was a tactical 

locality of vital importance to the defence of Amiens, and, in German 

hands, constituted a direct menace to the junction between the French 

and British Armies. 

Just as in the Waterloo Campaign of 1815 the separation of Wel- 
lington's and Bliicher's Armies, and their defeat in detail, was the paramount 
object of Napoleon's strategv, so in March and April, 
A comparison with the jgjg ^j^ ^^^^ means, by which the Germans could hope 

Waterloo Campaign '. j • • • i. i • ^ • i.u r> -t- u j 

to gam a decisive victory, lay m lorcing the British and 
French Armies asunder at the outset of the campaign.^ 

As soon as the news of the loss of Villers Bretonneux reached Army 
Headquarters, Sir Henry Rawlinson decided to retake the village at all 
costs, and every available reserve at his disposal was employed for this 
purpose. These were little enough, and consisted of the 13th and 15th 
Australian Brigades, the 54th Brigade of the 18th Division reinforced 
by a battalion of the 58th Division, and two battalions of the 8th Division. 

All the battalions of the 8th, 18th, and 58th Divisions employed had 
already suffered severely during the retreat, especially in experienced 
officers, and had had little or no time to absorb the drafts of yovmg soldiers 
they had received. Moreover, heavy concentrations of Yellow Cross gas ^ 
on Villers Bretonneux and L'Abbe Wood had caused severe casualties to 
the 8th and 58th Divisions on April 22nd. 

The counter-attack, which was organised by the III Corps at very 
short notice and under great difficulties, was launched at 10 p.m. on the 
same day as the attack, and was executed in a most 
Sfew BrSneL brilliant manner in spite of the darkness. It was greatly 
assisted by the determined manner in which the 5th 
Australian Division had maintained its position all day on the high 
ground immediately north of Villers Bretonneux. This division had 
learnt one valuable lesson of the March fighting, that, if part of a defen- 
sive line is forced back, it is essential for the rest of the line, and espe- 
cially that part on the flanks of the breach, to hold firm. " Conform- 
ing," or " withdrawing," so as to straighten the line was not part 

' As regards this, there are several questions which are of intense interest, but which it is at 
present impossible to decide with the information as yet available. 

First, what degree of importance did General Ludendorfi actually place on the separation 
of the French and British Armies ? 

Secondly, how near did the Germans come to the attainment of this object ? 

Lastly, instead of putting in large reserves to follow up the German success on the Lys on 
April 9th,"would it have been possible for General Ludendorff to have directed his reserves against 
Aruiens early in that month, and, if so, would he have achieved his purpose ? 

Future "historians will doubtless find an ample field for discussion on these points when further 
evidence from the German records is available. It would appear, however, that in clianging his 
strategic objective in April, General Ludendorff committed an error which eventually brought 
about his undoing, and at the same time saved the Allies from a situation which might well have 
cost them the war. 

Since this storj' was written, General Ludendorff's Memoirs have been published, but they 
do not appear to give a satisfactory answer to these questions. 

' Commonly known as " Mustard Gas." 



4 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY 

of its programme. It realised that, if the flanks of the breach hold 
firm, the enemy who has penetrated has both his flanks exposed and 
is at the mercy of a well-organised counter-attack ; also, that the force 
that has broken through cannot receive efficient artillery support, owing 
to the ignorance of its gunners as to the exact position of the infantry 
they are supporting. 

As the result of this brilliant counter-attack, carried out by the 
Australians and well supported by the divisions of the III Corps, the 
village of Villers Bretonneux was recaptured together with 900 prisoners, 
and Amiens was saved. This is an excellent example of the value of a 
counter-attack delivered with all available forces before the enemy has had 
time to establish himself and organise the defence. Hesitation and delay 
would have permitted the Germans to establish themselves firmly in their 
newly-won positions, their artillery would have been ready to rake all 
approaches to the village, and dayhght on the 25th would have found 
the position practically impregnable against the limited forces which were 
at the disposal of the Fourth Army Commander. 

Unfortunately, the First French Army, which had lost the village of 
Hangard at the same time as we had lost Villers Bretonneux, was unable 
to lavmch its counter-attack in conjunction with that of the III Corps. 
For various reasons it was postponed until next morning. In spite of 
the greatest gallantry and self-sacrifice on the part of the troops engaged, 
it failed, and Hangard village remained in German hands until August Sth.^ 

The attack on April 24th was the last attempt made by the Germans 
to break through the defences of Amiens, and, although this front was 
prepared and maintained as an offensive one for some time, false strategy 
and more attractive objectives on other parts of the front relieved the 
Amiens area from any further hostile pressure. 

Meanwhile, the German attack on the Lys, which had begun on 

April 9th, continued and drew in the enemy's available reserves. As 

Events on other parts ^^ch frcsh division made its appearance in the northern 

o! the Western front theatre, SO did it become more and more evident that the 

in April, May, June, enemy did not intend to press his menace at Amiens, 

*° ^^^ and the spirits of the troops in this area continued to 

rise in proportion to the opportunities for rest and training thus 

afforded. 

On May 27th, the great German offensive in Champagne was 
launched, followed on Jume 9th by an attack towards Compiegne from 
the Montdidier direction. Both were brought to a standstill after the 
first successful rush. 

Then ensued an anxious period of waiting until it was possible to 
discover on which portion of the Allied front the next great German 
onslaught would be delivered. As time went on, it became evident that 
it would be directed against the French on either side of Rheims. During 
this period our information was excellent, and it soon became clear, 
from the preparations that were being made, that every man and gun 
that could be made available would take part in this decisive attack, on 

1 This counter-attack was carried out by the famous Moroccan Division, consisting of four 
regiments, and of which the Foreign Legion formed a part. 



sketch No. 2, to face page 4. 



L'Abbc Wood 



'M u^ j^.x 




/. 



Shiib ,Ve, 2. (0 /*« pjt, I. 




The- RED CHATEAU ^t \ILLERS BRETONNEUX from the CORBIE road 



INTRODUCTORY 5 

which the Germans were about to risk their all, and that other fronts 
would be correspondingly weakened. General Foch ^ made his dispositions 
accordingly. 

On July 15th the blow fell. How General Gotiraud foiled the 
offensive east of Rheims, how the Germans, at first successful west of 
Rheims, succeeded in crossing the Marne, and how on July 18th General 
Mangin's counter-attack from the direction of Villers Cotterets Forest 
drove the enemy back in confusion over the Marne, is now well-known 
history. 

It was clear to those who had watched the course of events and had 
studied the losses and the state of moral of the German Army that the 
The first signs oi the crisis was ovcr and that the time for the Allied counter- 
weakening of the moral offensive was approaching, if indeed it had not already 
of the German Army arrived. Moreover, the Germans, in addition to serious 
errors in strategy, had made the fatal mistake of underrating their 
opponents, and especially the power of recuperation of the British Army. 
Although acting perfectly correctly in weakening their forces on other 
fronts so as to mass all available reserves for their main attack, they 
had made no serious effort to improve their defences on the weakened 
portions of the line. In front of Amiens their defences were especially 
weak, and nothing had been done to improve them, although it might 
well have been realised that this omission gave the Allies an opening for 
a counter-stroke of which it was more than probable that full advantage 
would betaken. 

Meanwhile, on the Fourth Army front, the situation after April 24th 

had rapidly improved, and, thanks to the indefatigable labours of officers 

The situation on the ^^^ men, the defences of Amiens had daily grown in 

Fourth Army front strength. Long lincs of trenches and innumerable belts 

after AprU 24th qJ ^jj.g ^j^^j machine-gun dug-outs covered all the country 

between Albert and Amiens. Battalions had improved in strength and 

training. The whole of the Australian Corps, with the exception of the 

1st Australian Division, which was still up in the north, had by now 

joined the Fourth Army and held the sector from south of Villers Breton- 

neux to the Ancre, whilst the III Corps, consisting of the 18th, 47th, and 

58th Divisions, held the remainder of the army front to just north of 

Albert. The weather was fine ; the men when out of the line could enjoy 

good fishing and bathing in the Somme, and they were afforded excellent 

opportunities for rest, training, and recreation. 

The Australians, always inquisitive, seldom idle, and with the 

greatest contempt for " Fritz," very soon began a series of inroads into 

the German lines which had a very important effect on 

The Australians subsequent operations. These minor operations and 

raids, some fourteen in number in May and June, met 

with encouraging success. Not only did they gradually improve the 

position of our line and give us many prisoners, but they established a 

moral superiority over the Germans that was to be of the greatest value 

in the future. No sooner had the Germans dug and wired a new front 

' He was created Marshal of France on Augiist 10th. 



6 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY 

and support trench than, under a surprise barrage, the Austrahans 
captured them and repulsed any attempt at their recovery. The Germans 
had perforce to begin all their work over again and construct a new front 
line, which, in its turn, before long passed into the possession of the 
Australians. 

Towards the end of June, the situation had so much improved that 
Sir Henry Rawlinson decided that the Australians should undertake an 
operation on a somewhat larger scale. This had for its objective the 
capture of the village of Hamel and Vaire Wood, together with an im- 
portant ridge east of these two localities. The capture of this ridge, he 
considered, would materially improve our line by giving it more depth, 
would furnish us with better observation, and would deny to the enemy 
observation of much of the Somme valley. Moreover, he considered that 
the attack would test not only the strength of the enemy's defences, 
but also the state of the German moral, which was already 
under considerable suspicion. It would fiirther form a good trial run for 
an offensive on a still larger scale, should it be desirable to carry out such 
an operation finally to disengage Amiens. A most important factor, 
however, at that time was the question of man power. In this respect 
the situation was serious, and it was not advisable, nor even possible, for 
us to incur heavy casualties. Fortunately, the terrain about Hamel 
was almost ideal for the employment of tanks, and, by using these in 
the closest possible touch with the infantry, it was hoped that casualties 
would be reduced to a minimum. Sir Henry Rawlinson decided, there- 
fore, to attack on a very wide front, compared with those adopted in the 
offensives of 1916 and 1917, and to employ as few infantry as possible 
in the firing line. Six battalions attacked on a front of 6,000 yards ^ 
supported by sixty tanks, whose task it was to deal with whatever opposi- 
tion might escape the barrage. The success of the operation, and the 
number of casualties incurred, would, it was felt, very largely depend on 
the degree of surprise attained. As the German defences were known to 
be weak, and there was little wire, no preliminary bombardment was 
considered necessary, and, in consequence, it was possible, with due pre- 
cautions, to carry out all the preparations up to the moment of assault 
without attracting attention. 

The attack, which came as a complete surprise, was delivered at 
dawn on July 4th and was entirely successful. Four companies of the 
I H 1 ^^^d American Division were attached to the attacking 
on^ Juiy'^4th, and its Australian battalions and added further glory to the 
lessons American flag on Independence Day. All objectives 

were gained with astonishingly small loss, and all counter-attacks were 
easily driven off. The Australians had outfought the Germans at every 
point. 

This operation conclusively proved several important points, which, 
up to that time, had been in doubt. It became clear that the German 
infantry, even though it had not been subjected on July 4th to the terrors 
of a preliminary bombardment, was no longer the formidable foe in defence 

' 1,200 to 2,000 yards was looked upon as a suitable frontage to allot to a division in the 
offensives of 1916 and 1917. 



Kf 




z 

< 



Q 

z 

< 



73 



z 

o 



z 



u 






Z 

< 




AUSTRALIANS, AND AMliRlCANS OF THE jJKD (iLLINOlS) DIVISION, RESTING 
NEAR CORBIE ON THEIR WAV UP TO THE LINE ON JULY jRD. 



ly kittj permission of llv Ausiralian CKcriimciii. 



INTRODUCTORY 7 

that it had been in 1916 and 1917, and that the German defences, judged 
by previous standards, did not count for much. It was also obvious 
that, under the conditions obtaining on the Fourth Army front, a well 
organised attack, carried out by determined men and supported by tanks 
well trained with the infantry beforehand, had every chance of breaking 
right through the enemy's defences. Lastly, it proved that, given the 
element of surprise, an attack of this nature could be successful without 
incurring the heavy losses to which we had become accustomed in previous 
years.^ It was a good omen for the future. 

By July 16th there were good grounds for thinking that the last 

great German effort would definitely fail, and that the opportunity for 

a successful counter-offensive by the Allies would 

cou^ntw^oseiuive shortly arise. Everything indeed appeared to favour 

an early offensive, and it was certain that the 

Germans, after the failure of their great attack in Champagne on July 15th, 

would be in a state of despondency. 

For an offensive, the object of which was to gain a decisive success, 
there was probably no sector on the whole Allied front which presented 
such favourable conditions at that particular time as that held by the 
Fourth Army. The situation, both as regards the forces opposed to us 
and the terrain, was ideal for an attack on a large scale. Moreover, if 
successful, the attack was bound to have very far-reaching results and 
was, therefore, well worth considerable risks, for it would render Amiens 
safe once and for all, and thus secure the junction of the British and French 
Armies. Further, it would directly threaten the communications of the 
German Armies facing the First and Third French Armies. In the 
light of after events the correctness of these forecasts has been clearly 
proved. 

The plan for an attack on the Fourth Army front was submitted to 
General Headquarters on July 17th, was approved by Sir Douglas Haig, 
and received General Foch's approval a week later with some minor 
modifications which will be referred to later. 

So far as one can judge, no surprise has ever been more complete 

than was that of the Germans on August 8th. It is astonishing that this 

should have been so, for, between July 30th and 

on^ August 8th'' August 8th, the Cavalry Corps of three divisions, 

fourteen divisions of infantry, over 2,000 guns, and 

some 450 tanks were concentrated east of Amiens on a front of about ten 

miles, within striking distance of the unsuspecting von der Marwitz,^ 

who commanded the opposing German Army. 

The actual attack, carried out on the same lines as the attack of 
July 4th, though on a much larger scale, went mthout a hitch. The 
cavalry, after its many disappointments in previous offensives, at last 
found its opportunity. The Germans were swept off their feet 

• The actual casualties incurred on July -Ith were 1,030, while the prisoners taken amounted 
to 1,472. 

'' General von der Marwitz commanded the Second Army ; Gleneral von Hutier commanded 
the Eighteenth Army immediately to the south of the Second Army. They were the two com- 
m:»nders who had been most successful in March, and Gleneral von Hutier was also the victor of 
Riga. 



8 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY 

and never really recovered from the overwhelming nature of the 
disaster.^ 

The attack of the Fourth Army assisted the First French Army to 
capture the important high ground north of Moreuil. This, together with 
the further success of the First French Army, as it 
French ArmUs, and*the advanced on the right of the Fourth Army, enabled the 
Third British Army join Third French Army, and then the Tenth French Army, 
in the offensive ^^ pj.ggg forward in turn. On August 21st, when the 
advance of the Fourth Army reached the level of Albert, the Third British 
Army widened the front of attack to the north, and from then onwards 
continuous pressure was kept up along almost the whole of the British, 
and the greater part of the French and American fronts. 

The additional impetus given to the offensive by the participation of the 

Third British Army not only resulted in the captiire of Bapaume and the 

The complete loss ot turning of the Somme defences from the north, but also 

the initiative by the greatly discouraged the already dispirited troops of the 

Germans enemy, and added enormously to the difficulties and 

embarrassments of the German Great General Staff. The enemy had now 

lost the initiative beyond all hope of recovery, and was forced by our 

successes to carry out an extensive withdrawal of his forces from the 

Lys salient. Reserves were flung into the line piecemeal, as our attacks 

developed, without time or consideration for their most usefiil employment. 

• It is interesting to note the great importance General Ludendorff attaches in his Memoirs 
to this attack of August 8th. " August 8th," he says, " was the black day of the German Army 
in the history of the War. . . . Early on August 8th in a dense fog, that had been rendered still 
thicker by artificial means, the British, mainly with Australian and Canadian divisions, and French 
attacked between Albert and Moreuil with strong squadrons of tanks, but for the rest, in no great 
superiority. They broke between the Somme and the Luce stream deep into our front. The 
divisions in line at that point allowed themselves to be completely overwhelmed. Divisional 
staffs were surprised in their headquarters by enemy tanks. . . . The exhausted divisions that 
had been relieved a few days earlier, and that were lying in the region south-west of Peronne were 
immediately alarmed and set in motion by the Commander-in-Chief of the Second Army. At 
the same time he brought forward towards the breach by any means all available troops. The 
Rupprecht Army Group dispatched reserves thither by train. The Eighteenth Army threw its 
own reserves directly into the battle from the south-east and pushed other forces forward in the 
region north-west of Roye. On an order from me the Ninth Army too, although itself in danger, 
had to contribute. . . . By the early hours of the forenoon of August 8th I had already gained a 
complete impression of the situation. It was a very gloomy one. I immediately dispatched a 
General Staff officer to the battlefield in order to obtain a view of the condition of the troops. . . . 
Six or seven divisions, that were quite fairly to be described as effective, had been completely 
battered. Three or four others, together with the remnants of the battered divisions, were 
available for closing the broad gap between Bray and Roye. . . . The wastage in the Second Army 
had been very great. Heavy toll had also been taken of its reserves, when these were thrown 
in. In the case of some divisions the infantry had had to go into the line straight out of their 
motor lorries, while their artillery was lined up elsewhere. Units were badly mixed up. It was 
to be foreseen that a further number of divisions had become necessary to reinforce the Second 
Army, even if the enemy should not attack again, a prospect upon which we could not count 
with any assurance. Owing, in addition, to the deficit created by the number of prisoners taken 
from us, our losses had reached such proportions that the supreme command was once more faced 
with the necessity of having to disband a further series of divisions in order to furnish drafts. 
Our reserves were diminishing. As against all this there had been an only uncommonly slight 
expenditure of strength on the part of the enemy. The relative man-power had shifted appreciably 
further to our disadvantage. . . . All we could do was to put off the inevitable. We had abso- 
lutely to be prepared for a continuation of the enemy's attacks. He had been allowed to score 
too cheaply. . . . August 8th marked the decline of our fighting power, and, the man-power 
situation being what it was, it robbed me of the hope of discovering some strategic expedient that 
might once more stabilise the position in our favour. . . . The war would have to be ended." 

See " My War Memories, 1914-1918," by General Ludendorff. Vol. ii, p. 679 et seq. 



INTRODUCTORY 9 

Upon our own troops in other parts of the line the record of these 

rapid and brilHant successes had a most inspiriting effect. Until 

August 8th the general feeling among officers and men 

^moraj"^ was that the complete repulse of the enemy and the 

preparation for a triumphant campaign in 1919, by 
which time the weight of the rapidly increasing American Army would 
have turned the scale definitely in our favour, was the most that could 
be hoped for. Officers and men now saw with amazement that the enemy 
was being driven back almost as rapidly as he had advanced, and hopes 
ran high that the enemy's defeat would be complete before the end of the 
year. Local enterprises were accordingly undertaken against the enemy 
with eagerness and vigour, and it became clear that the demoralisation 
and depression of the enemy had spread far beyond the zone covered by 
the operations of the Fourth and Third Armies. 

The results of the Battles of Amiens and Bapaume gave the oppor- 
tunity for the First Army to join in the onslaught. Accordingly, on 
The First British Army August 26th, the battle was extended north to the 
extends the front ol Sensee and Scarpe, and on September 2nd the difficult 
attack to the north and formidable Drocourt-Queant line was brilliantly 
stormed, and the enemy thrown into precipitate retreat. 

Under the combined and continuous pressure of the three armies the 
enemy, fighting tenaciously but unsuccessfully, was driven back to the 
strongly fortified zone of defences known as the Hindenburg Line, which 
was his main line of resistance, and upon the maintenance of which 
his hold on France and Belgium depended. 

The crisis of our counter-offensive had now been reached. The 
inability of the Germans to check the advance, and the accumulating 
The crisis ol the counter- evidence of their growing demoralisation and disor- 
oflensive, September ganisation, proved conclusively that the time had come 

26th-29th for the Allies to deliver the decisive blow without delay. 

Marshal Foch and Sir Douglas Haig lost no time in taking advantage 
of their opportunity. Four convergent and simultaneous attacks were 
delivered between September 26th and 29th. 

In the Argonne and to the east, the French and American forces 
attacked the enemy and pressed them steadily back in the direction of 
Mezieres. In Flanders, the Passchendaele Ridge, the scene of so much 
laborious and bitter fighting in 1917, was crossed in one day by the 
Belgian forces and the Second British Army under the command of King 
Albert. 

The main and most critical attack was that delivered by the First, 
Third, and Fourth Armies against the Hindenbiug Line. The attack 
was a magnificent success and opened the way for the 
mnTenburg°Line^ rapid and complete defeat of the enemy. 

"With the breach in the Hindenburg Line the 
enemy lost his last and most strongly prepared position, and he had no 
alternative but to withdraw his forces along the entire front. From now 
onwards, he endeavoured to make use of semi-prepared and natural 
positions to resist ovu advance for a period sufficiently long to enable 
him to carry out his wathdrawal in good order. 



10 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARINIY 

Our troops, however, flushed with constant success and eager to 

transform the defeat into a rout, pursued the retreating enemy with the 

The crossing of the utmost vigour and determination. Against the dash 

Seiie and Sambre and resolution of our men no obstacles were of any 

rivers avail. The battles on the Selle and Sambre rivers 

brought only new victories to our arms, and the Lys failed to check our 

progress in Flanders. 

The embarrassment and bewilderment of the German Great General 
Staff increased daily. All reserves were used up. Many of the German 
battalions could not be relied upon to fight, and even 
demorSsation ^^ ^^^^ ^^^^ ^^ ^^^ machine-gunners, hitherto the back- 
bone of the defence, the will to resist had vanished. 
After November 4th the withdrawal became a rout. In the words of 
Sir Douglas Haig's Victory Despatch, " The enemy was falling back 
without coherent plan in widespread disorder and confusion." 

The destruction of the German Army was only averted by the signing 

of the armistice on November 11th. When a stroke of the pen put an end 

to hostilities, the town of Mons, whence had begun the 

The Armistice epic retreat of the •' Old Contemptibles " in the autumn 

of 1914, was, by a fitting coincidence, once more in 

British hands. The forces of the enemy were still on foreign soil, but the 

utter demoralisation of his army is clearly evidenced by the terms which 

Germany was forced to sign before the armistice was granted. The 

armistice was, in fact, a capitulation, and is the best testimony to the 

value of the series of successes which began with the victory of August 8th. 

NOTE TO CHAPTER I.— GENERAL LUDENDORFF AND GERMAN MORAL 

As has been pointed out in this chapter, there was a feeling in the Fourth Army during July 
that the German Army had reached its limit of endurance, and that the bubble of its invincibility 
only required pricking. August 8th and the days that followed strengthened the impression and 
caused it to spread throughout the British Army. General Ludendorff's Memoirs confirm it. 
Seldom has the commander of large forces admitted defeat, and given the reasons for such defeat, 
in clearer language. The German High Command had lost all hope of victory, all hope even of 
staving off inevitable disaster. WTien those in supreme command are overcome with such feelings 
of despair as are expressed by General Ludendorff, then the forces which they control are indeed lost. 
History teaches us that it is the spirit of the commander almost more than anj'ihing else which 
affects the moral of an Army. It was the unconquerable spirit of Frederick the Great in the face 
of disaster that saved Prussia from destruction in the Silesian Wars, and again in the Seven Years' 
War. It was the magnetism of Napoleon that kept the half-starved, ragged conscripts of 181-1 
in the field so long against five or six times their number. Again, it was their wonderful faith in 
Lee's genius that maintained the moral of the Confederate soldiers, even when the enemy was 
within a few miles of Richmond. Wlien one reads these Memoirs of General Ludendorff and 
thinks of the great commanders of the past, can one be surprised that the moral of the German 
Army was crumbling, that the officers had lost faith in their men, and the men in their officers ? 

To students of Col. Henderson's " Stonewall Jackson " and " The Science of War," the story 
of August 8th and the subsequent three months' fighting will appeal with especial force. It 
bears out those imperishable maxims of war that Col. Henderson devoted his unique literary 
powers to impressing on the minds of British officers. " Wellington knew well," he says,' " that 
the issue of battles lies in the hearts of men — in the heart of the Commander even more than in 
the heart of the soldiers — and that human nature, even when disciplined, is peculiarly susceptible 
to a strong, sudden, and sustained attack." And again a few pages later,^ " What could be more 
valuable than to have learned so thorouglily, that its application has become instinctive, the 
following principle. Always endeavour to mystify and mislead your enemy whether you are 
attacking or defending ; if you can surprise your enemy's General, his army is already defeated." 

I " The Science of War," " Notes on Wellington," p. 97. 
» Ibid., p. 102. 



X 



CO 

D 
o 

< 

z 

o 

r- Z 

o:: - 

O . . 



< = 
n C 

^ > 



w o 



& u 
a o 
Q 

< H 
W E 
S H 

K Z 
X O 
h 

< 

Z 
W 
M 

h 
O 
O 




f^-^ 



; = <^ S :* 






i •■'• j:' -6 '2. r^„ ^ 

i i ? = V s = ■£ 

'H J J 2 .= £ 2 M, 

Iid= iili 



I ^ i i s I ^ |- 

s i i ■■? ^ ^ f ^ 






3 C — _ 

c E - . 
£ 5 tc ^ 



-3 5 



. "^ - E ■■> ~ ■- -^ -i 

''Cg-.-=S~— oil 

X X X .S.—-- J3 a^ 



■ •^ ^ IV, 



CHAPTER II 

PKEPARATIONS FOR THE OFFENSIVE 

Maps 1, 2, and 3 

The situation in the middle of July on the Fourth Army front — The concentration of troops— 
The reorganisation of the front prior to the attack — The nature of the countrj' — The hostile 
defences — The strength and moral of the enemy — The strategic objectives of the attack — 
Secrecy, the basis of the plan of attack — The conditions affecting the plan — The frontage of 
the attack — The objectives — The synchronisation of the attack — The allotment of tanks — 
The role of the cavalry — The role of the Royal Air Force — The role of the artillery, engineers, 
and Machine Gun Corps — The issue of maps and photographs — The danger of hostile gas 
shelling during the assembly of troops — Minor hostile attacks on August 3rd and August 6th 
— The assembly of the troops — The forming up of the infantry — The hour of " zero " — The 
confidence of the troops. 

The belief that the conditions on the Fourth Army front were 
extremely favourable for the carrying out of a successful offensive on a 
The situation in the ^^rge scale had been growing rapidly since July 4th. 
middle of July on the In addition to the moral superiority which had been 
Fourth Aimy front attained by the Australians over the enemy, the 
German divisions on this front were known to be weak in numbers. 
Scarcely one had more than 3,000 effectives in its ranks, with the corres- 
pondingly lowering result on their fighting spirit that almost always 
accompanies reduced strengths ; nor was there any considerable body of 
reserves behind this front. There were no well-organised systems of defence, 
and, judging by those captured by the Australian Corps on July 4th, the 
German trenches were badly constructed, and were protected with little 
wire. Lastly, the terrain was extremely favourable for an offensive 
with a distant objective limited only by the physical powers of endm-ance 
of horse and man. The country was open and undulating ; the hard 
soil, with chalk very near to the surface, rendered it particularly 
favourable for tanks and cavalry. The chances of the successful employ- 
ment of these arms were further increased by the absence of shell craters 
and by the dry weather of the preceding months. The observation available 
from our positions was excellent and favoured our artillery action ; good 
artillery positions were numerous, and the general lie of the country 
afforded covered lines of approach, which favoured a surprise attack. 

On July 17th, Sir Henry Rawlinson submitted to the Commander- 
in-Chief his proposals for the attack, and on Jvily 23rd, after some 
discussion, the plan^ was approved, with some minor modifications, by 

' The original proposal put forward by Sir Henry Rawlinson was that the Fourth Army 
should take over from the French as far south as Moreuil, and should carry out an attack on the 
whole of this front from Moreuil to Morlancourt. He considered that, for reasons of secrecy, 

11 



12 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY [July-Auo. 

Sir Douglas Haig and General Foch. It was decided that the First 
French Army on the right should participate in the attack with the 
Fourth Army, and, to ensure close co-operation. General Foch placed the 
First French Army directly under the orders of Sir Douglas Haig. On 
July 26th Sir Henry Rawlinson received instructions from the Commander- 
in-Chief to press on the preparations for the attack, the date of which 
was fixed for August 10th, but subsequently advanced to August 8th. 
At the end of July, the Fovuth Army was composed as follows : 

The III Corps, comprising the 12th, 18th,^ 47th, and 58th Divisions, 

together with the 33rd American Division, which was 

^''' °°°roopf '°° °' attached for training but had not yet been in the 

line. 

The Australian Corps,^ comprising the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th 

Australian Divisions. 

The 3rd Cavalry Division. 

The 5th Brigade, Royal Air Force, comprising eleven squadrons. 
The 5th Brigade, Tank Corps, comprising three battalions, two of 
which had taken part in the operations at Ham el on July 4th. 

The artillery in the army, which totalled about 1,000 guns, 
consisted of 23 field artillery brigades, 13 garrison artillery brigades, and 
10 long-range siege batteries. 

By August 8th, the Fourth Army had been reinforced by five infantry 
divisions (1st Australian, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Canadian), two cavalry 
divisions (1st and 2nd), six squadrons of the Royal Air Force, nine batta- 
lions of tanks, together with another 1,000 guns, the final strength and 
distribution being : — 

The III Corps : Commanded by Lieut.-Gen. Sir Richard Butler. 

12th, 18th, 47th, and 58th Divisions, with the 33rd American 
Division attached. 
The Australian Corps : Commanded by Lieut.-Gen. Sir John Monash. 

1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th Australian Divisions. 
The Canadian Corps : Commanded by Lieut.-Gen. Sir Arthiir Currie. 

1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Canadian Divisions. 
The Cavalry Corps : Commanded by Lieut.-Gen. Sir Charles Kavanagh. 

1st, 2nd, and 3rd Cavalry Divisions. 

simplification in the co-ordination of the hour of attack, barrages, etc., it would be preferable 
to have the -whole arrangements in the hands of troops of one nationality. Past experience had 
shown that, with the best will in the world on both sides, a combined attack by French and British 
troops was always more difficult to co-ordinate and keep secret than one which was entirely in 
the iiands of a French or British Commander, controlling only his own troops. Sir Henry Raw- 
linson suggested that General Debeney, commanding the First French Army, should employ 
his available troops towards his right, and that, when the British attack had been successful and 
had thrown the German defence into confusion, General Debeney should attack northwards from 
the direction of Montdidier. He considered that this plan would, if successful, lead to greater 
strategical results. General Foch decided against this proposal, as he considered that better 
results would be obtained by a joint attack by both armies from the same direction. 

1 The 12th and 18th Divisions, though in the IH Corps area, were earmarked for general 
reserve in case of emergency. They were released from general reserve at the end of July. 

2 The 1st Australian Division was still in the north, where it had been sent early in the spring 
to reinforce the Second Army during the Lys battle and had greatly distinguished itself in the 
fighting round Hazebrouck. 



July— Aug] PREPARATIONS FOR THE OFFENSIVE 13 

The 5th Brigade, Royal Air Force: 

15th (Corps) Wing, six corps squadrons. 

22nd (Army) Wing, eight scout squadrons ; three bombing 
squadrons. 
The 3rd, Uh, and 5th Brigades, Tank Corps : 

12 Tank Battahons, of which eight were equipped with Mark V, 
two with Mark V star, and two with whippet tanks. 

The large majority of the additional units and formations, which were 
concentrated during the eight days prior to the attack, were moved into 
the area by train ; the cavalry, whippet tanks, and a portion of the artillery 
moving by road. Altogether about 230 special trains for personnel and 
guns, as well as upwards of 60 special trains for ammunition, were run 
into the Fourth Army area, in addition to the ordinary supply trains for 
food and engineer material. If it is remembered that only two railway 
lines were available, one along the coast via Etaples and Abbeville and 
the other via St. Pol and Doullens, that all movements from detraining 
stations had to take place during the hours of darkness, and that the 
utmost secrecy had to be maintained by all concerned in the moves, the 
amount of work thrown on the administrative services will be fully 
realised. The fact that the concentration was carried out and that the 
formations moved into their places of assembly without a hitch and 
entirely unsuspected by the enemy, was not the least remarkable 
feature in the story of the battles of the hundred days. 

In addition to the troops already mentioned, the 17th, 32nd, and 
63rd Divisions were assembled close behind the battle front, in general 
reserve in the hands of the Commander-in-Chief, in order to maintain 
the fight and to take full advantage of any success gained. Other divisions 
were also held in positions of readiness in rear of the remainder of the 
British front, with a view to their being moved to the battle front as 
circumstances required. By August 8th, the 17th Division was con- 
centrated behind the Australian Corps, the 63rd Division behind the 
III Corps, and the 32nd Division in rear of the Canadian Corps. Of 
these three divisions, the 32nd Division was subsequently released from 
general reserve and placed at the disposal of the Canadian Corps, the 
17th Division was employed to hold a portion of the line on the front of 
the Australian Corps for a few days during a lull in the fighting, whilst 
the 63rd Division was not used on the front of the Fourth Army. 

On August 1st, the front held by the Fourth Army extended from 

Monument Wood, just south of Villers Bretonneux, where junction was 

The reorganisation niadc with the First French Army, to the high ground 

of the front prior north of Albert, where the Fourth Armv joined the 

to the attack rpj-,ij.(j Army ; the total front being about 21,000 
yards. The front was held by two corps ; on the south the Australian 
Corps held from the southern boundary to the river Ancre, and the III 
Corps thence to the junction with the" Third Army. Before the attack 
it was necessary to take over about 7,000 yards of front from the First 
French Army, and to readjust the corps boundaries of the Australian 
and III Corps. On the night of July 31st, therefore, the III Corps 



14 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY [July-Aug. 

extended its front southwards and took over as far as the Somme. This 
addition to the III Corps front included the high tongue of land about 
Morlancourt, on which so many of the successful enterprises of the 
Australian Corps had been carried out during the preceding months. 
In fact, as lately as July 29th, the Australian Corps had advanced its 
line on a front of 2,500 yards, captvu-ing the important ground over- 
looking Morlancourt and adding considerably to the depth of the defence 
of the plateau. During the nights of July 31st and August 1st the 4th 
Australian Division took over from the First French Army as far south 
as the Amiens-Roye road inclusive. This extension of the front by the 
two corps already in the line must undoubtedly have assisted in giving 
the enemy a false sense of security, as the natural inferences to be deduced 
therefrom were the relief of French troops for employment on the 
Champagne battle front and a change to a passive attitude on the part 
of the Australian Corps, which had thus had its front very considerably 
extended. 

At the beginning of August a withdrawal by the enemy in the neigh- 
bourhood of Albert to the east bank of the Ancre gave indications that 
rumours of an attack on our front might have reached him. These 
fears, however, were shortly allayed, when it was ascertained from 
prisoners that the withdrawal was only local, and that it had been carried 
out in order to avoid the difficulties of supplying troops on the far side of 
the marshy ground astride the Ancre. 

The main features of the ground over which the attack of August 8th 

was made are the valleys of the Luce and the Somme, the dominating 

heights between the Avre and the Luce, the wide 

the "country plateau between the Luce and the Somme, and the 

flat-topped high ground north of the Somme. North 
of the Somme the ground presents many difficulties. The high ground, 
for the first 3,000 yards east of the line we then held, is slightly undulating 
and offers few natural obstacles until Tallies Wood and Gressaire 
Wood are reached. The northern slopes fall comparatively gently 
down to the marshy valley of the Ancre, but the southern slopes 
of the plateau, leading down to the Somme, are steep and broken 
by a series of well-defined gullies or re-entrants. The ground 
is very rough, and, with the steep slopes, constitutes a serious 
obstacle for tanks. The village of Sailly Laurette lies hidden in 
one of these re-entrants on the northern bank of the Somme, whilst 
further east there is a steep gully, the slopes of which are in summer 
covered by the thick foliage of Malard Wood. Still further east is the 
village of Chipilly, built on the steep Avestern slopes of the Chipilly spur, 
which is a dominating feature of the Somme valley, commanding it as 
far west as Corbie. Beyond the Chipilly spur the Somme winds its way 
to Peronne in a series of bends, the high ground in the vicinity of each 
bend forming an outstanding tactical feature and hiding in turn the villages 
of Etinehem, Bray-sur-Somme, and Suzanne, each of which played a 
conspicuous part in the early stages of the battle. 

The Somme itself is well known in the history of the Great 
War. For purposes of commerce it has been canalised, the old river 




irii m \i\ 



Hii^Ba am 



■AA 




^fciiii- 








Z 

< 



►J 



s 




c 

DC 
< 

u 
z 

< 



< 

W 
U 
t3 

►J 

w 
a: 

O 

w 

< 
> 

w 

H 




X 



o 





o 

a: 

> 

< 

h 



< 
u 

w 

X 






p 
z 

o 

X 



X 

o 
I 
w 

X 
H 



JuLY-AuG J PREPARATIONS FOR THE OFFENSIVE 16 

flowing by the side of the canal through marshy swamps, the whole thus 
forming an obstacle which can only be crossed by causeways and bridges. 

Between the Somme and the Luce, the country is generally flat and 
open, with numerous villages and woods, scattered about at wide intervals. 
In this part of France a distinctive feature of the country is the absence 
of outlying farms and houses. The villages for the most part consist of 
groups of farms interspersed with the shops necessary for supplying them 
with commodities. Buildings are distinctly poor, the greater part of 
the granaries and cattle stalls being constructed of " wattle and daub." 
The villages are, in nearly every case, surrounded by orchards and trees ; 
consequently at a distance they often present the appearance of small 
woods, from which, however, the church steeple standing out above the 
trees generally distinguishes them. 

The Luce forms a difficult obstacle. The stream itself is not wide, 
but on either side there are broad marshes, which restrict the movement 
of troops to the normal crossings shown on the map. The only bridge 
in our lines was that at Domart ; while, of the two which lay within the 
enemy's lines, the one at Hangard was broken, the other at Demuin 
was intact. 

In the angle formed by the Luce and Avre the high ground between 
Moreuil and Demuin overlooks the valleys of both rivers and gives good 
observation on to a large part of the Gentelles-Cachy plateau, on which 
a very large number of our batteries were posted. It also includes Rifle 
Wood, a position of great natural strength. 

It has already been mentioned that the enemy's defences were not 
formidable. The front system consisted of very roughly dug trenches, 
with few communication trenches and no dug-outs of 
defences^ any strength. Beyond the enemy's front system the 

only defences in existence were the old Amiens defences 
dug in 1915 and 1916. These defences were divided into two systems, 
the inner and the outer defences, of which the outer defences had been 
made the more complete. The inner defences ran northwards in a series 
of disconnected posts from Mezieres along the eastern face of a deep 
re-entrant ; crossing the Luce near Demuin, they continued in a 
northerly direction through Marcclcave to our front line in the vicinitv of 
Hamel village. The outer defences, which were in a more advanced 
state, were complete with front and support trenches and numerous 
communication trenches and were protected by a thick belt of wire on 
the eastern side. They crossed the Amiens-Roye road just east of Le 
Quesnel, about 13,000 yards from our front line at Hourges, and thence 
ran in a general northerly direction to the Somme, which they crossed near 
Etinehem. North of the river the line reverted to a scries of posts running 
along the eastern edge of Gressaire Wood and Taillcs Wood, whence 
it curled gradually north-westwards to the Ancre, about 4,000 yards 
south of Albert. 

These defences, having been carefully sited for the defence of 
Amiens, provided a well-defined objective, "which could be easily recog- 
nised by the troops on reaching it and would also afford them a good 
line to hold prior to a further advance. The wire was thick, but was 



16 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY [July-Auo. 

sited on the far side of the defences to protect them against an attack 
from the east, and it had suffered from time and weather. 
Between the inner and outer defences of Amiens there was httle 
to stop the advance; small posts and trenches, lightly wired, had been 
made by both sides during the fighting in March and early April, and most 
of these were easily discernible on the excellent air photographs available. 

East of the Amiens outer defences there were no organised defences 
as far as the Somme, In the neighbourhood of the Somme, however, 
the country, as the result of the battles of 1916, was covered with shell- 
holes and partially dismantled wire, which, being overgrown with rank 
grass and thistles, might be expected to retard the advance of the infantry 
and render the employment of cavalry and tanks almost impossible. 
As it turned out, the existence of this shell-crater area, the near edge of 
which ran approximately from Le Quesnoy-en-Santerre, through Lihons 
and Foucaucourt, to Frise, had an important influence on the later stages 
of the battle. 

From the above it will be seen that the enemy had entirely neglected 
to strengthen his position by means of entrenchments, and it is interesting 
to note that General Ludendorff at the time ascribed the success of our 
operation in a great measure to the slackness and apathy of the garrison 
in the use of the spade.^ 

The Fourth Army had been confronted for some time past by seven 

divisions in line between the Luce and Albert. Of these the 13th, 41st, 

and 233rd ^ Divisions had been in line for one month, 

iSVoM?e^my ^he 43rd Reserve and 54th ^ Reserve Divisions for one 

month and a half, and the 109th Division for three and a 

half months. The 27th Wiirttemberg Division, which was fresh and a good 

1 In an order issued by German General Headquarters on August 11th, a copy of which 
order was captured during our advance, General Ludendorff said : — 

" According to the report of the officers sent by G.H.Q. into the area of operations of the 
Second Army, the reasons for the defeat of the Second Army are as follows : — 

" 1. The fact that the troops were surprised by the massed attack of the tanks, and lost 
their heads when the tanks suddenly appeared behind them, having broken through under the 
protection of natural and artificial fog. 

" 2. The fact that scarcely any positions or obstacles worth mentioning existed, either in 
the forward battle zone, or in the villages and broken ground farther back, to make a methodical 
resistance possible there. 

" 3. The fact that the available artillery, allotted to the battalions at rest and to the reserve 
at the disposal of the higher command was wholly insufficient to establish fresh resistance with 
artillery support against the enemy who had broken through, and against his tanks. 

" The following conclusions are drawn from these facts : — 

" 1. As I have already ordered in my tele-writer message la. 9718, Secret op. of the 8th August, 
considerably more must be done to obtain information regarding the enemy's intentions by taking 
prisoners, watching the ground by means of special observation posts, report centres, aerial recon- 
naissance and listening sets, as owing to the present situation we must also expect surprise attacks 
on other fronts. The closest vigilance is necessary at daybreak and in the early hours of the 
morning, as surprise attacks usually begin at this time, and because a certain lassitude is often 
prevalent among the men in the morning, after the strain on their nerves and endurance during 
the night. The supervision of the troops at this time is especially necessary, in view of our late 
experiences. Sufficient has been said on my part with regard to the organisation of infantry and 
artUlery in depth. 

" 2. Far more must be done than has hitherto been the case in the construction of trenches 
and in the construction of defences against tanks. The dislike of the troops for trench digging 
must be combated by all means possible. 

" 3. The principle that troops, even if they are enveloped, must, if necessary, defend their 
battle zone for days, to the last roimd and to the last man, if they do not receive any further orders, 
appears to have been forgotten." * North of Morlancourt. 



JuLY-AuG] PREPARATIONS FOR THE OFFENSIVE 17 

fighting division, had only been brought down from the Lille area a few 
days before in order to carry out an attack in the Morlancourt sector on 
August 6th .1 It was not, however, proposed to attack along the whole 
of the army front; hence, on that part of the front selected for owe 
offensive, namely from the Amiens-Roye road to Morlancourt, it was 
estimated that we should be opposed by six divisions. These divisions 
were, it was believed, distributed as under : — 

South of the Luce . . . . 225th Division (Prussians). 

Hangard Wood Sector . . 109th Division (East Prussians). 

Villers Bretonneux Sector . . 41st Division (East Prussians). 

Accroche Wood Sector . , 13th Division (^Vestphalians). 

Astride the Somme . . 43rd Reserve Division (Guard Corps 

Depot). 

Morlancourt Sector . . 27th Division (Wiirttembergers). 

In consequence, however, of the advance of the Canadian Corps being 
in a south-easterly direction, it was certain that soon after the start of 
the attack the Canadians would come in contact with the 14th Bavarian 
Division. The above divisions belonged to three corps, namely the 
LI Corps holding south of the Luce, the XI Corps from the Luce to just 
south of the Somme, and the XIV Corps thence northwards. All the 
above corps formed part of the Second German Army commanded by 
General of Cavalry von der Marwitz. 

With regard to the enemy's reserves, it was anticipated that the 
Germans would be able to reinforce the front with eight divisions by the 
evening of August 11th. This number was an under-estimate, as will 
subsequently be seen. 

From the examination of prisoners, captured by our troops during 
the period between July 18th and August 8th, it was ascertained that 
General Mangin's victory on Jvily 18th had seriously affected the moral of 
both officers and men. Moreover, according to prisoners recently returned 
from Germany, the moral of civilians had been also very adversely 
affected. The ability of the French to carry out such a successful 
counter-stroke, after repeated assertions that the whole of the French 
reserves were exhausted, had seriously shaken the confidence in the 
German High Command, not only of the army, but also of the German 
people.2 

1 See page 26. 

' The following order, issued by General Ludendorff on August 4th, shows how necessary he 
must have considered it to raise the drooping spirits of his troops even before he received the 
news of the attack on August 8th : — 

" C.G.S. of the Field Army. G.H.Q., 

la. No. 9670. op. 4/8/18. 

" I am under the impression that, in many quarters, the possibility of an enemy offensive 
is viewed with a certain degree of apprehension. There is nothing to justify this apprehension, 
provided our troops are vigilant and do their duty. 

" In all the open warfare operations in the course of their great defensive battle between 
the Marne and the Vesle, the French were only able to obtain one initial tactical success due to 
surprise, namely that of July 18th, and this success ought to have been denied them. In the 
fighting which followed, the enemy in spite of his mass of artillery, was unable to obtain the 
lightest tactical advantage ; and yet, far from occupying prepared positions, our troops were 
fighting in open country and were merely holding the positions which they had chanced upon at 
the end of a day's battle. All the enemy's attacks broke down with sanguinary losses. It was 



18 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY [July-Aug. 

The initial object to be attained by the operations of the Fourth 
Army and the First French Army was to disengage Amiens and the 
Paris-Amiens Railway by seizing the Amiens outer 
"*' 'of th?auack"''' defences on the line Hangest-en-Santerre-Harbonnieres- 
Mericourt-sur-Somme, at the same time establishing a 
strong flank to the north of the Somme by the capture of the Chipilly 
spur and the high ground south of Morlancourt. Such an operation, 
if successful, would ease the situation enormously at the junction of the 
allied armies, and would render Amiens safe from bombardment. 

As the preparations progressed, however, it became apparent that the 
situation offered such favourable opportunities for greater results that 
General Foch decided to enlarge the scope of the operations by employing 
French troops further to the south. On August 5th the Fourth Army 
received orders that, if the initial attack was successful, the operations 
should be continued by pushing south-eastwards in the direction of the 
line Roye-Chaulnes with the least possible delay, thrusting the enemy 
back in the direction of Ham and thus facilitating an attack by the 
French from the front between Noyon and Montdidier. 

The basis of the whole plan was secrecy, and the first essential, 

therefore, was to ensure that the knowledge of the contemplated operation 

should be in the possession of as few persons as possible. 

^thrptafof^aUack' ^t the first conference, held by Sir Henry Rawlinson 

on July 21st at Fourth Army Headquarters at Flixecourt, 

only the Chief Staff Officer and Artillery Commander of the Fo\ui:h Army, 

and the Commanders and Chief Staff Officers of the Canadian and 

Australian Corps, together with a representative of the Tank Corps, 

were present. Subsequent conferences were held every few days, but in 

different places, so that the constant gathering of commanders would be 

less likely to attract attention. The numbers attending the conferences 

gradually increased as the date of the attack approached and it became 

necessary for more officers to be consulted. The principle followed was 

for staffs and formations to be informed as late as possible, but in sufficient 

time to ensure that complete preparations could be made. 

The first intimation given to divisions of the proposed operation was 
on July 31st, and on August 4th the Army Commander held a conference 

not the enemy's tactical successes which caused our withdrawals .but the precarious state of our 
rearward communications. 

" The French and British infantry generally fought with caution ; the Americans attacked 
more boldly but with less skill. It is to the tanks that the enemy owes his success of the first 
day. These, however, would not have been formidable if the infantry had not allowed itself to 
be surprised, and if the artillery had been sufficiently distributed in depth. At the present moment, 
we occupy everywhere positions which have been very strongly fortified, and we have, I am 
convinced, effected a judicious organisation in depth of the infantry and artillery. Henceforward, 
we can await every hostile attack with the greatest confidence. As I have already explained, 
vfc should wish for nothing better than to see the enemy launch an offensive, which can but hasten 
the disintegration of his forces. 

" Commanders and men must be imbued with a bitter determination to conquer, both in the 
defensive as well as in the offensive. This is a consideration which must not be lost sight of during 
training. Hence, we must not, under the present circumstances, neglect the organised defensive 
by devoting ourselves too exclusively to offensive tactics ; generally speaking, the organised 
defensive is the more difficult. It is the latter, in fact, which imposes the greatest test upon the 
spirit of the troops 

" (Sgd.) LUDENDOBFF " 



JuLY-AuG.] PREPARATIONS FOR THE OFFENSIVE 19 

at the Cavalry Corps Headquarters at Auxi-le-Chateau, at which he 
explained his plans to the divisional and brigade commanders of the 
Cavalry Corps. The result of this secrecy was that the troops in the 
firing line were not acquainted with the Army Commander's intentions 
till about thirty-six hours before " zero." ^ 

As the Canadian Corps had been kept in reserve and had not been 
involved in the March fighting, the enemy would certainly expect an 
early offensive wherever it was identified. The first problem, therefore, 
was to camouflage the move of the Canadian Corps from the First Army, 
on which front the 1st and 4th Canadian Divisions had recently gone into 
the line, to conceal their presence in the Foiirth Army area until the 
last possible moment, and to draw off the enemy's attention elsewhere. 
With this object two Canadian battahons, two Canadian casualty clearing 
stations, and the Canadian wireless section were moved by General 
Headquarters to the Second Army and took over a portion of the fine in 
the vicinity of Kemmel Hill, a very important tactical feature, which the 
enemy had captured, and which he would naturally expect that we should 
be anxious to regain. No Canadian troops were placed in the front line 
on the Fourth Army front until just before " zero " on " Z " day. 

It was realised that the large concentration of troops in the back 
areas wovdd become knowTi to a number of junior officers and other 
ranks of the administrative services and railways who must necessarily 
assist in the move. This was bound to resiilt in a great deal of discussion 
as to the object of the movement, and rumovu-s of it might reach the 
enemy through his secret service in time to give him warning. Fortunately, 
an excuse was forthcoming. In accordance with the orders of General 
Foch, a British corps had been held in reserve west of Amiens, behind 
the junction of the Foiuih Army and the First French Army. This 
corps, the XXII, had recently been moved south to assist the French 
armies on the Marne front. As soon as the concentration began to 
become known it was allowed gradually to leak out that the Canadian 
Corps, together with a brigade of tanks, a squadron of the Royal Air 
Force, and a powerful force of heavy artillery, was taking the place of the 
XXII Corps and was being concentrated west of Amiens ; also that this 
force was to be ready to reinforce the junction of the French and British 
Armies, or to move south against the flank of any hostile advance on the 
French front. At the same time, in order to cause confusion of 
thought, a rumour, previously in circulation, that the Canadian 
Corps would relieve the Australian Corps was not denied. The resvdt 
of all these conflicting reports was that opinion in England and at the 
bases was about equally divided between Ypres, Arras, and Champagne 
as the destination of the various reinforcing formations, but whether 
they were for offensive or defensive piuposes was not kno^vTi. 

In order to ensure concealment from hostile observation, all movements 
whether by road or rail were undertaken at night, and aeroplanes patrolled 
the army area by day to report any unauthorised movement. Ever\i;hing 
also was done to indicate the continuance of normal conditions, and 

' " Zero " was the term in use to describe the hour at which the assault would be launched, 
and " Z " day the day of attack. 



20 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY [July-Aug. 

work was actually continued on our rear defences up to the evening of the 
day prior to " Z " day.^ 

With regard to the artillery, it was all-important that the enemy's 
suspicions should not be aroused by an increase of fire prior to the attack. 
In order to ensure surprise all registration of guns and previous bombard- 
ment were prohibited, except in accordance with the normal artillery 
activity on the front. In order to support the advance of the infantry with 
a creeping barrage, accurate registration of the supporting artillery is 
essential, and, however carefully g\ins may be calibrated and their 
positions resected, it is always advisable to check calculations with a 
few rounds in order to ensure that there shall be no error. In consequence, 
programmes were carefully worked out giving the times at which guns 
should fire and the number of rounds to be fired, so that, even though the 
amount of artillery in the line had been doubled, the enemy should not 
appreciate it. No work on positions likely to be visible by aerial observa- 
tion was permitted, the guns being camouflaged and remaining silent. 

The precautions taken were fully justified in the result, and the 
success of the operation must be attributed in no small degree to their 
faithful observance. 

With the exception of the Cambrai offensive in November, 1917, 

the operations in view differed in certain main essentials from any which 

had been undertaken in 1916 and 1917. In the battle 

afiMUng°°he'S °^ *^^ Sommc in 1916, at Arras and Messines in April 

and June, 1917, and at the third battle of Ypres in 

July, 1917, the attacks were launched against organised defensive 

systems of great depth, provided with dug-outs, and, in 1917, with 

' In order to bring home to every officer, non-commissioned officer, and man in the Fourth 
Army his personal responsibility for maintaining absolute silence in regard to what was going 
on around him, the following pamphlet, known as " Keep your mouth shut," was issued to all 
ranks and pasted into the official small books carried by every officer and man : — 

"KEEP YOUR MOUTH SHUTl" 

" The success of any operation we carry out depends chiefly on surprise. 

" Do NOT T.4iK. — \\1ien you know that your unit is making preparations for an attack, 
don't talk about them to men in other units, or to strangers, and keep your mouth shut, especially 
in public places. 

" Do not be inquisitive about what other units are doing ; if you hear or see anything, keep 
it to yourself. 

" If you hear anyone else talking about operations, stop him at once. 

" The Success of the Operations and the Lives of yoxm Comhades depend upon your 
.SnENCE. 

" If you should ever have the misfortune to be taken prisoner, don't give the enemy any 
information beyond your rank and name. In answer to all other questions you need only say, 
' I cannot answer.' He cannot compel you to give any other information. He may use threats. 
He will respect you if your courage, patriotism, and self-control do not fail. Every word you 
say may cause the death of one of your comrades. 

" Either after or before you are openly examined, Germans, disguised as British officers or 
men, will be sent among you or will await you in the cages or quarters or hospital to which you 
are taken. 

" Germans will be placed where they can overhear what you say without being seen by you. 

" Do NOT BE TAKEN IN BY ANY OF THESE TrICKS." 

A copy of an order, issued by the 54th Reserve Division on or about August 21st, was 
captured by the 47th Division. An extract from which ran as follows : — 

"The Examination presented great difficulties, as the prisoners, especially those of the 
23rd London, were apparently excellently schooled in the way they should behave if taken 
prisoner, and gave very clever evasive answers. The captured sergeant refused absolutely any 
information." 



JuLY-AuG] PREPARATIONS FOR THE OFFENSIVE 21 

concrete " pill-boxes " ; moreover, these systems were in all cases protected 
by belts of strong wire. The situation, therefore, necessitated a preliminary 
bombardment of considerable duration, which at once indicated to the 
enemy not only the approximate front, but also the approximate date of 
attack. Strategical surprise under such conditions was therefore 
impossible. At Cambrai, on the other hand, a svirprise attack was 
successfully launched against a strongly fortified position, but here the 
ground lent itself exceptionally well, not only to the concealment of the 
artillery, but, more important still, to the employment of large numbers 
of tanks. In August, 1918, the conditions as regards the ground on the 
Fourth Army front were very similar to those at Cambrai, and in addition 
the attack was to be made, not against a strongly organised position, but 
against one on which little work had been expended and which the enemy 
continued to regard as an offensive front. A strategical surprise was, there- 
fore, possible. It was, in consequence, decided that there should be no 
artillery bombardment previous to " zero." The next factor that had to 
be carefully considered was the question of man-power. Our losses in 
March and April both in men and material had been very heavy, and, 
although the material had in a large measure been replaced, the pro\ision 
of men, especially trained men, caused grave anxiety. It was essential, 
if the offensive was to be prolonged and produce large strategical 
results, that economy in men should be looked upon as of outstanding 
importance. The experiences of the Australians at Hamel on July 4th had, 
it was hoped, provided the solution of the problem by the employment 
of comparatively few infantry lavishly supported by tanks and artillery.^ 
During the previous six months, owing to tlae brilliant success of 
the Cambrai attack, the expansion of the Tank Corps had been rapid. 
Not only had the numbers of tanks available largely increased, but the 
tanks themselves had been improved very materially in pace, ability to 
mancBU\'Te, and in mechanical efficiency and reliability. Apart from this, 
the training of the personnel both tactically and mechanically had been 
put on a sound footing, and the Corps, as a whole, had reached a high state 
of efficiency. 

The front on which it was decided to attack extended from near 
Moreuil on the south, as far as the Ancre on the north, a distance of 

about 30,000 yards. Of this, the front from the Amiens- 
the attack ° Roye road inclusive to the northern limit of attack 

was allotted to the Fourth Army, and was subdivided 
among the three corps as follows : — 

Canadian Corps. — From the Amiens-Roy e road to the Villers 
Bretonneux-Chaulnes railway (both inclusive), a total of 7,500 yards 
as the crow flies, and about 9,500 along the British front fine. 

' Previous to the Hamel operations, the Australian battalions, which were to carry out the 

attack, had been very carefully trained, not only with tanks, but with the actual tank units 

which were going to work with them in battle. With tanks, even more if possible than with 

artillery, close liaison with the infantry is essential to success, and the results of the fighting at 

Hamel emphasised very clearly the value of this training. Every effort was therefore made in 

he time available to ensure that as many battalions as possible should carry out exercises with 

anks before the battle commenced. This was possible with the Australian and III Corps 

roops which had been with the Fourth Army throughout the summer, but could only be carried 

ut in a minor degree with the Canadian Corps, owing to its having so recently joined the army. 



22 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY [July— Auo. 

Atistralian Corps. — From the Villers Bretonneux-Chaiilnes rail- 
way (exclusive) to the Somme, 7,500 yards, 

/// Corps. — From the Somme to the Ancre, 7,000 yards. 

North of the Ancre the front of the III Corps was to be held 
defensively as far as the northern limit of the army front on the high 
ground north-west of Albert. On the right of the Fourth Army, the 
Commander of the First French Army allotted the front from Moreuil 
to the Amiens-Roye road to the XXXI French Corps, on the right of which 
acain the front was to be held defensively until such time as the situation 
should develop with the advance of the Fourth Army. To the AustraUan 
and Canadian Corps, assisted by the cavalry, fell the honoiir of carrying out 
the main attack, whilst the XXXI French Corps on the right and the 
III Corps on the left formed the defensive flanks. 

The final objective ^ to be reached in the main attack, if possible on the 
first day, was the Amiens outer defence hne, which has been previously 
described. At the furthest point this objective entailed 
The objectives an advance of 14,000 yards, whilst the average distance 
from the " starting line " ^ was about 10,500 yards. 
Even if strong opposition were not encountered, the mere distance to be 
traversed would entail considerable fatigue to the infantry, which 
would necessitate the relief of the leading bodies of infantry at different 
stages in the advance. The Canadian Corps solved this problem on 
the left by forming up two divisions on comparatively narrow fronts 
and arranging for brigades of the same divisions to " leap-frog " ^ each 
other ; on the right by placing one di\asion on a Avider front and " leap- 
frogging " a reserve division through it. The Australian Corps solved it 
by disposing two of its divisions on wide fronts and then " leap-frogging " 
two reserve divisions through the front line divisions. The principle was 
the same in both these methods. 

The advance was to be made by bounds from objective to objective. 
The first boimd covered a distance of between 3,500 and 4,000 yards, 
that is to say, approximately the limit of range at which an effective 
field artillery barrage could be maintained without moving the guns 
forward. It was also anticipated that a very large number of the hostile 
batteries, which had been located in the Cerisy-Gailly-Warfusee-Abancoiui; 
valley, were within this distance and would be captured in the first bovmd. 

The advance from the first objective to the second objective covered 
a distance varying from 2,000 to 5,000 yards, and was arranged so as to 

*)f » The objectives are shown on Map No. 3, " The attack of August 8th," as follows : — 

Green line — First objective for all corps. 

Red line — -Second objective for all corps. 

Blue line — Third objective for the Australian Corps. 

Blue dotted line — Third objective, or line of exploitation, for the Canadian Corps. 
' The " starting line " is the line from which the infantry assault is launched. It is also 
often called the " jumping off " line. 

3 " Leap-frogging " is the term applied, in an attack against more than one objective, to 
the method of advance whereby the leading unit or formation captures the first objective and then 
halts, whilst the second unit or formation passes through it and attacks the next objective 
Should there be a stiU further objective, the second unit then remains on the second objective whilst 
a third unit passes through it and attacks the third objective. The term was introduced to 
distinguish this method of dealing with a succession of objectives from that previously in use, 
to which the leading unit or formation went right through to the furthest objective. 



JuLY-AuG] PREPARATIONS FOR THE OFFENSIVE 23 

bring the leading troops to a favoiirable line for consolidation, should a 
fiirther advance on the first day be impossible. The advance of the 
infantry and tanks from the first to the subsequent objectives was covered 
by mobile groups of artillery. These were specially detailed to infantry 
brigades beforehand, and held in readiness to advance in support of the 
infantry as soon as the forward movement began. To give time for this 
artillery to move forward, and for the " leap-frogging " troops to reach 
their positions for the next advance, it was arranged that there should 
be a halt of two hours after the capture of the first objective on the 
Canadian and Australian Corps fronts before the advance was resumed. 

The advance to the first objective was synchronised along the whole 

of the Fourth Army front. The French troops, however, which were to 

h ■ • co-operate on the right, had no tanks to assist them, 

ySie att^k'°° ^^'^ *^^^i^ advance was therefore timed to begin forty 

minutes after that of the Fourth Army, in order that 

the enemy's positions in front of them might be subjected to an artillery 

bombardment. After the initial assault it was only possible to synchronise 

the successive advances of the Australian Corps and those of the two 

northern divisions of the Canadian Corps, as the attacks of the III Corps 

and of the southern division of the Canadian Corps were necessarily 

independent, on account of the rough natiire of the groimd in the case 

of the former, and of the difficulties presented by the crossing of the 

Luce in the case of the latter. 

Ten battalions of heavy tanks were available.^ Four of these bat- 
talions were allotted to the Canadian Corps, four to the Australian 
The allotm nt Corps, and one to the III Corps ; the remaining 
of tanks*" battalion, which had recently been employed with the 
First French Army, being held in army reserve. The 
total number of fighting tanks available on August 8th was 456, of which 
96 were whippet tanks. 

The role given to the cavalry was to push through the leading infantry 
of the Canadian and Australian Corps as soon as opportunity offered, and, 
^^ J taking advantage of any opening that might occur, to 
the cavalry secure the Amiens outer defences and hold them until 
the arrival of the infantry. Subsequently the cavalry 
was to move south-eastwards in the general direction of Roye and Chaulnes, 
with a view to cutting the enemy's communications and to easing 
the situation in front of the French. In order to ensure that no oppor- 
tunity of passing through the infantry should be missed through the 

■ Two kinds of heavy tanks were employed : the Mark V and the Mark V star. The Mark V 
tank was exceptionally handy to manoeuwe, being able to twist and turn with a rapidity which 
a year before would have been thought impossible. The Mark V star tank was similar in armament 
and in its mechanism to the Mark V, but was six feet longer, this extra length having been given 
to it with a view to enabling it to span a wider trench, and also to enable it to be used as a carrier 
for infantry or machine-guns. It had, however, by this increase in length lost the power of 
quick mancEu\Te and thus became an easier prey to the enemy's anti-tank guns. In both the 
Canadian and Australian Corps one battalion of Mark V star tanks was assigned the task of 
carrying mfantry or machine-gim detachments to the final objective. On arrival, the detach- 
ments were to have been disembarked and to have held the position gained until the arrival 
of the remainder of their units. As it turned out, the detachments in most cases were unable 
to withstand the fumes and the heat of the engine, and, disembarking shortly after the start, 
followed the tanks to the objective on foot. 



24 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY [July-Auo. 

cavalry not being in the closest touch with the infantry, the 3rd Cavalry 
Division was placed temporarily under the orders of the Canadian Corps 
Commander, and one brigade of the 1st Cavalry Division under those of 
the Austrahan Corps Commander. This arrangement was to continue 
until such time as these bodies of cavalry had passed through the infantry, 
when they were again to come under the direct command of the Cavalry 
Corps Commander. Two battalions of whippet tanks, capable of moving 
at a rate of about seven miles an hour, were allotted to the Cavalry Corps. 
Of these, one company (sixteen tanks) from each battalion was detailed to 
accompany the leading troops of the 1st and 3rd Cavalry Divisions respec- 
tively, their role being to assist the cavalry in exploiting any success 
which might be gained.^ 

The control of the air throughout the days of preparation was of 
the greatest importance, if the enemy were to be kept in ignorance of the 
forthcoming attack. For some weeks prior to August 8th 
RoyMAir°Force ^^^ Royal Air Force was busily employed in ensuring 
a mastery over the enemy's aeroplanes, a work in which 
it was entirely successful. The number of hostile aeroplanes engaged in 
long distance reconnaissance was small, and only very few of the enemy's 
machines crossed the line and operated over our forward area. When 
they did succeed in doing this, they were prevented by our anti-aircraft 
defence and aeroplane line patrols from obtaining any useful information 
or doing any serious damage. It was essential to maintain this supremacy 
throughout the battle. To achieve this the Army Commander had at his 
disposal the 5th Brigade, Royal Air Force, consisting of the 22nd (Army) 
Wing of eight scout squadrons, the 15th Wing of six corps squadrons, and 
three other squadrons for bombing. He could also rely on the assistance 
of the scout squadrons of the 9th Brigade, Royal Air Force, from General 
Headquarters, and on that of seven bombing squadrons lent by other Army 
Wings. 

The six corps squadrons of the 15th Wing were allotted as follows : 
the 35th and 5th Squadrons and the 3rd Australian Squadron 
worked with the III, Canadian, and Australian Corps respectively. The 
8th Squadron worked with the Tank Corps, and the 6th Squadron with 
the Cavalry Corps. The remaining squadron, the 9th, was allotted the 
duty of keeping the machine-guns of the III and Australian Corps supplied 
with small arm ammunition on the second and third objectives.^ 

The duty of the corps squadrons was to keep the formations with 
which they were working supplied with information regarding the progress 
of the attack, and to carry out such additional tasks as were required of 
them, e.g. drowning the noise made by the tanks when assembling, forming 
smoke screens, and observing for the artillery. The eight scout squadrons 
of the 22nd Wing were to be employed exclusively in bombing and engaging 
with their machine-gvms suitable targets on the ground on the whole 
army front. The scout squadrons of the 9th Brigade were to maintain 
constant patrols at a high altitude over the battle front. The objectives 

' See Appendix K. " The Adventures of a whippet tank on August 8th." 
' Ammunition was dropped from the aeroplanes to the troops in the ordinary S.A.A. boxes 
(containing 1,000 rounds) by means of small parachutes especially designed for this purpose. 



JuLY-AuG] PREPARATIONS FOR THE OFFENSIVE 25 

of the day and night bombing squadrons were the railway centres at 
Chaulnes, Roye, Nesle, and Peronne, the crossings over the Somme, and 
the roads and billeting areas which the enemy was likely to use. 

It is not possible to describe in detail the work allotted to the Artillery, 
Engineers, and Machine Gun Corps, nor adequately to record the important 
The role of the P^^ played by these arms during the whole course of 
ArtiUery, Engineers, and the operations which began on August 8th. Although 
Machine Gun Corps little mention is made of the individual work of units of 
these arms in this narrative, yet their work went on continuously with 
little respite, and their infantry comrades are fully aware of what they 
owe to their devotion and skill.^ 

Broadly speaking, for the attack on August 8th the artillery was 
allotted two tasks. The first, to be carried out by about one-third of 
the total number of guns available, was to form a creeping barrage,^ 
covering the advance of the infantry. The second, in which all the 
remaining guns were to be employed, was the bombardment of every 
locality known to harbour hostile guns, thus preventing the enemy from 
cither using or removing them, whilst the long-range guns also dealt with 
the villages and other localities suspected of being assembly places for 
German reserves. At " zero " the creeping barrage was to fall 200 yards 
in front of the infantry " starting line " and then pause for three minutes 
while the infantry closed up under its protection. The barrage was then 
to be lifted 100 yards every two minutes until it had advanced a further 
200 yards, after which it was to slow down to lifts of 100 yards every 
three minutes until it had moved forward a total of 1,000 yards from the 
line on which it originally fell. From then onwards, up to the hmit of 
range of the guns, it was to advance at the rate of 100 yards every four 
minutes. The object of gradually reducing the rate of advance of the 
barrage was to enable the infantry to keep close to it, and thus gain full 
benefit from the protection it afforded. 

In order to supply the staffs of formations and the fighting troops 
with full information regarding the ground over which the attack was to 
. take place and the nature and condition of the enemy's 

and'p^hotogra'phr defences, a large nvmiber of special maps and photo- 
graphs had to be printed and circulated. This entailed 
an immense amount of work on the photographic section of the Army 
Printing and Stationery Services, and on the Field Survey Battalion. 

It was the task of the former to reproduce, to piece together as 
mosaics, to distribute to the fighting troops and the headquarters of 
formations, and in some cases to enlarge, the photographs taken by the 
Royal Air Force. ^ Some idea of the amount of work involved will be 
gathered from the fact that, between August 1st and 6th, 37,825 whole 
plate photographs, 1,840 enlargements, and 4,500 mosaics were issued 

' For details as regards the organisation and tactics of the Machine Gun Corps, see Appendix J 
- See map No. 18, which illustrates the system of the creeping barrage. 

3 Both vertical and oblique photographs were taken from the air. Vertical photographs 
covering a large area were pieced together and then cut up into smaller areas to suit the 
requirements of the various divisions. These mosaics were particularly valuable when used 
in conjunction with the oblique photographs covering the same areas, and were used practically 
as maps. 

E 



26 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY [August 6th 

to the troops, many being distributed to company, platoon, and section 
commanders. The difficulty experienced was not so much the numbers 
of photographs to be taken as the shortness of the time available in 
which to reproduce them. This was due to the necessity for keeping 
the attack secret for as long a time as possible. 

The work thrown on the Field Survey Battalion was equally great. 
It began in their case on July 29th, and within ten days 160,000 maps 
were issued to the troops, while 119,300 special maps were printed. The 
work of the Field Survey Battalion, however, was not confined to maps, 
as the arrival of artillery units new to the area necessitated much work 
in the field, including the fixing of positions for 128 new batteries. 

A serious danger to be feared during the days prior to the attack 
was a hostile bombardment with Yellow Cross gas. On several occasions 
The danger of hostue during the preceding months the enemy had caused 
gas shelling during heavy losscs and consequent disorganisation to our 
the assembly of troops troops by means of concentrated bombardments of this 
gas. Although not so lethal as the other kinds of gas, it was a much 
more difficult type to combat, owing to its smell being so slight, and to 
the consequent difficulty found by the troops in realising in time the 
danger to which they were exposed. Moreover, its effects were often not 
experienced until many hours later. In addition. Yellow Cross gas did not 
disperse, but hung about for many days, especially in woods and enclosed 
places, and, in the event of heavy gas shelling, experience had sho'wn that 
the only effective remedy was to move the troops from the affected area. 
Prior to the attack, when the whole area must of necessity be thick 
with troops and batteries, this would be obviously impossible without 
causing great confusion and altering the dispositions of troops just at the 
moment when it was least desirable to do so. In order to reduce the 
risks, therefore, L'Abbe Wood and other areas which had constantly 
been subjected to gas shelling in the past were avoided as much as possible. 
Arrangements were also made to open a heavy counter-battery fire on 
any hostile gun positions from which gas should be fired, and, for this 
purpose only, on the night preceding the attack, all available guns, whether 
they had recently arrived in the area or not, were specially authorised 
to fire should the enemy open a gas bombardment. 

Two incidents which occurred shortly before the attack caused no 

little anxiety as to whether the enemy would thereby obtain information 

Minor hostile attacks regarding our impending operations. In the early 

on August 3rd and morning of August 3rd an Australian post on the 

August 6th Amiens-Roye road at Hotirges on the south bank of 

the Luce was captured, and the enemy succeeded in taking prisoner a 

sergeant and four men. Inquiries were at once set on foot, and it 

was ascertained that not only was the garrison of the captured post 

ignorant of our plans, but that the men had been overheard only the day 

before discussing the prospects of another long spell in the line owing to 

their having taken over a new front. Three days later, soon after dawn 

on August 6th, before the divisional reliefs consequent upon the extension 

of the III Corps front dowTi to the Somme had been completed, the enemy 

attacked on a front of about 4,000 yards. The attack was made south 



DIAGRAM So. I. 

ASSEMBLY AREAS OF AUSTRALIAN CORPS PRIOR TO AUG.8^?* 

Hot \o 3c».\e: Y)\st3.ncrsa are only &pproxims^is 



^ 



>:^ 



/^ 



Third Ohjechve (Slzje I^ine) 



Second Objec/ive ( 7?eJ Ljnc) 



? 
o 
o 
o 
■o 



Fm^} OhjecJive ((^reen L^ne) 



Br:rj:h Fronl L. -.-:.■ 



M 



JBJs. 3rJAuS.Div 




IBJs 2nJAusDiv 


IBJe 
4ih.Aus.Div. 


IBJe. 
■4-}hAas.DJv. 


\ 


V 

JBJe 
SlhAusDiv. 


1 BJe 
5}h AusDiv. 






iBJe. 4-ih Aus.Div 


IBde. 6 A AasBiv 






IBJe 
' 3rJAo3DJv. 


JBJe. 

3rJAu2Div 


]BJe 

2nJ.Aus.Div. 


JBJe 
2nJAusDiv 













Holdinq irte Linp. 



To capJure 3econJ 
>■ OhjecJive AnJ ThirJ 
Objective. 



To c&pJure 
Flr-jJ Oi>jecIive 



To face page 27. 



August 7th] PREPARATIONS FOR THE OFFENSIVE 27 

of Morlancourt against the positions which had been gained by the 5th 
Austrahan Division on July 29th. The 18th Division, which was holding 
the sector, was at the time actually engaged in carrying out an inter- 
brigade relief, always a most unfortunate moment at which to be attacked, 
as the scheme of defence must necessarily be temporarily disorganised, and 
the communications blocked by the incoming and outgoing troops. The 
attack was carried out by the 27th AViirttemberg Division, which had 
been brought down hurriedly from the Lille front with a view to stopping 
the rot which had set in owing to the offensive policy of the Australian 
Corps. The Wiirttembcrgers succeeded not only in penetrating our 
lines to a maximum depth of 800 yards, but also in capturing some 200 
prisoners, including some artillerymen engaged at the time in establishing 
forward dumps of ammunition ready for the guns when they were brought 
into position for the offensive. Luckily, either these prisoners did not 
know of the contemplated operations owing to the system of secrecy 
that had been in force, or, if they did, none of them disclosed what they 
knew.^ The next morning an attack by the 18th Division partially 
restored the situation and resulted in the capture of 70 prisoners. These 
operations of necessity caused a local dislocation of plans on the front 
of the III Corps, since they affected the " starting line " of the infantry, 
and consequently the artillery programme. They also reduced both the 
strength and vigour of the troops which were to be used in the main 
operations, and caused the enemy to be much more on the alert than on 
other parts of the front. The general situation, however, was in no way 
affected. 

The assembly of the infantry, owing to the large numbers of troops 

of all arms in the forward zone, entailed very careful staff arrangements 

and good march discipline, to ensure that everything 

^''IhTteoo^ps °' worked smoothly and without undue fatigue to the 

men. As the divisions of the Australian and III Corps 

were already east of Amiens, only comparatively minor readjustments 

were in their case required, but, even so, the assembly of the troops of 

these two corps was no easy matter, as a brief explanation of the forming 

up of the Australian Corps will show. 

In view of the distance to which it was proposed to penetrate, and 
of the great depth of the infantry formations throughout the attack, the 
assembly of the infantry of the Australian Corps was organised in such a 
manner as to reduce, to the greatest extent possible, the distance to be 
covered by the 4th and 5th Australian Divisions, which were detailed for 
the capture of the most distant objectives. They assembled, therefore, in 
areas between those occupied by the 6th and 10th Brigades of the 2nd 
and 3rd Divisions, which were holding the line at " zero," and the areas 
occupied by the remaining four brigades of those two divisions. The 
6th and 10th Brigades were not to take part Avith their divisions in the 
attack on the first objective, but were to be collected and brought into 

'■ The records of the examination of these prisoners by the German Intellisience, as well as 
that of the five Australians, were found amongst German documents subsequently captured. From 
a study of these examinations it is clear that the Germans obtained no useful information or inkling 
of our attack. This fact reflects the greatest credit on the manner in which our prisoners avoided 
giving information to the enemy which could be of use to him. 



28 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY [August 7tti 

reserve after the whole of the attacking troops had passed through them, 
subsequently moving forward to rejoin their divisions. At " zero," there- 
fore, the attacking troops of the 2nd and 3rd Australian Divisions were to 
pass through the assembly areas of the 5th and 4th Australian Divisions, 
and then through the brigades of their own divisions which were holding 
the line. The relative positions in which the divisions were disposed for 
forty-eight hours before " zero " is shown diagrammatically in Diagram I. 
This arrangement, while it achieved its object, necessitated very good 
control and accurate work on the part of the commanders and staffs, and 
the fact that all went according to plan is a testimony to the organising 
ability and discipline of the Australian Corps. 

The divisions of the Canadian Corps had to be moved up gradually 
from their concentration areas, which extended far to the west of Amiens, 
and units had to be timed to reach their assembly positions at the appointed 
hour. 

Arrangements for the forward movement of the reinforcing artillery 
were even more difficult ; not only was there a vast amount of traffic on 
the roads which impeded their movement, but, in the case of that of the 
Canadian Corps, it had to share the positions on the Gentelles plateau 
with the French artillery. 

The assembly of the tanks was no easy matter, owing to the necessity 
for all movement taking place at night and for their being hidden away 
or camouflaged by daylight. In addition, the noise of over 400 tank 
engines droning away behind the army front was certain to be heard by the 
enemy unless arrangements were made to cover it. This was carried out 
by the Royal Air Force, which, for the four or five nights previous to the 
attack, kept several machines flying over the line. On the night of 
August 6th the tanks were moved up in groups to their preparatory 
positions, which, in most cases, had to be reached across country and were 
sited some two or three miles behind the front line. On the night of the 
7th they were moved up to their assembly positions about 1,000 yards 
behind the infantry "starting line," and there deployed into the exact 
positions from which they were to advance in the early morning of the 
8th. The exact route of every tank was minutely reconnoitred beforehand, 
obstacles were removed, and in many cases tape lines to guide the drivers 
were laid out.^ It speaks volumes for the efficiency of the officers and 
men of the Tank Corps that almost every tank detailed for the initial 
attack arrived to time and in its allotted position. 

The Cavalry Corps, which had been concentrated in the valley of the 
Somme between Amiens and Flixecourt, closed up into close billets and 
bivouacs just west of Amiens on the night of August 6th, and, on the 
night of the 7th, started at dusk and marched through Amiens to its 
assembly position on the open ground in the fork between the Villers 

1 Only one untoward incident marked the assembly of the tanks. One company of supply 
tanks which had been allotted to the 5th Australian Division was assembled in an orchard in the 
vicinity of Villers Bretonneux. During the afternoon of August 7th a lucky shot during a hostile 
area shoot in this vicinity struck one of the tanks carrying petrol, setting it on fire. The fire 
thus caused attracted the attention of the hostile gunners, and the enemy immediately subjected 
the orchard in which the tanks were concealed to a heavy concentrated bombardment, destroying 
almost the whole company of 25 tanks and their loads. The incident caused some uneasiness 
as it was thought the enemy had discovered the presence of the tanks 



DIAGRAM No. //. 




fsA Wa'^c . L c^t'n^ Coy 5 of ea>c 
/orm /St. if Ave m ts^o //nc 



2nd VVA^e; 



3 re/. WAve , Formed in SfrioJt\ 

^er^iort columns . /"*■/, 



^ th Wi>.ve ; Formeef in 

SmAlt section c ol un^ns 

fhe M 0':> a-nd T M'^. 
det^tfiJ to Qo XorwArd 
v^ith Att&ck . K'/7/ <4CCC>/»7 

jpc^ny f^his i^Ave a/so 

Bd&- ForY>^&.r d Sinn&l 
PAXty. ^ 



.5/A W(>ve ; darners . 1 ^■ 
from e&c/i Coy. in \ - 
'3mA// columns. J 



Note.:- Ciyides t^nd M^tker^ thui ^ 
Ta,pe.s And 'Pc.g:s •> 



DIAGRAM SHOWING THE FORMING UP OF A BRIGADE 
FOR A TRENCH-TO-TRENCH ATTACK 



To face page 29. 



August 7th] PREPARATIONS FOR THE OFFENSIVE 29 

Bretonneux and the Roye roads. The two battalions of whippets, which 
had arrived from the vicinity of Doullens on the night of the 6th and had 
assembled under cover of the trees in the outer boulevards of Amiens, 
joined the column as it passed. The column of three cavalry divisions 
was a very long one, and only one road out of Amiens was available. 
Only the most careful timings, therefore, and the strictest march discipline 
enabled them to reach their assembly positions by " zero " (4.20 a.m. 
August 8th). Forward of the assembly positions the mass of giins and 
infantry, which was crowded behind the front line, necessitated a special 
track being made by which the cavalry could advance without either 
interfering with the infantry, through whose reserves they would have 
to pass, or masking the artillery. This track was not made until the 
night of the 7th and was very expeditiously constructed by the engineers 
of the Cavalry Corps, assisted by a battalion of American engineers. 

After the marshalling of the infantry divisions and brigades in their 
allotted assembly areas, there remained yet another preliminary measure 

to be taken which required care and accuracy. This 
'^^the'^Jtotry ° Consisted in the lajdng out of the tapes from which the 

leading infantry was to start off to the attack.^ 
An example of a method of forming up a brigade is shown in Diagram 
II. Before " zero " the imits were led up to their positions by guides, 
and were met on the tape line by markers who had gone up in advance. 
Once in position the troops were not to move off their alignment until the 
assault began. 

" Zero " was fixed for 4.20 a.m., just over an hour before sunrise. 
This hour was chosen so that the infantry could break the crust of the 

enemy's defence under cover of darkness, and also in 
"zero*' ° order that there should be sufficient light, before they 

had gone more than a few hundred yards, to enable 
them and the accompanying tanks to keep their direction.^ 

The preceding pages will give some idea of the difficulties that had 
to be overcome, and of the magnitude of the task placed on the shoulders 

of the commanders and staffs of all formations in pre- 
'^'the'froopr °* paring for this operation. There were, however, very 

few novices in the art of mounting an attack, and, in 
spite of the short time available for completing the preUminary arrange- 

' In laying out such tapes, certain considerations have to be borne in mind : — 

1. It is essential that the troops should advance straight to their front, as a change of direc- 
tion during the assault nearly always leads to loss of direction and consequent disorganisation. 

2. The distance to be traversed by the infantry before reaching the enemy's front line must 
not be too far. 

3. The forming up position should be, if possible, on the enemy's side of the area on which 
the hostile protective barrage is usually put down. 

4. The necessary preliminary arrangements must not be observed by the enemy, or he 
will receive warning of the impending attack. To ensure this, strong patrols should be pushed 
out in front to cover the preparations. 

2 The decision as to the hour of attack must alwajrs be difficult, especially when infantry 
attack with the aid of tanks, as the requirements of the two arms must often be antagonistic. 
Cover from view is desirable to protect a tank from hostile anti-tank fire, but a tank is valueless 
unless it has sufficient light to keep its course and use its armament. For the infantry, on the 
other hand, darkness is usually preferable in order to neutralise the enemy's machine-gun defence 
and to avoid the risk of being caught in daylight in their assaulting positions, which must often 
be in the open. The hour chosen was a compromise between the various claims, ajid subsequent 
events proved the choice to have been quite satisfactory. 



80 



THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY [August 7th 



merits, all was ready by the evening of August 7th. It only remained to 
hope for fine weather. 

And so the morrow was eagerly awaited. Never before in the war had 
the prospects of a great success seemed brighter, and nothing could have 
exceeded the confidence in success which was felt by all ranks of the Fourth 
Army from the highest to the lowest. Nothing on August 7th was more 
remarkable than the spirits and supreme confidence of all the troops, to 
whatever arm they belonged. It may be said without exaggeration that 
so strong was this feeling, so high the moral, and so fixed the determination 
to reach the furthest objectives at whatever cost, that the Battle of Amiens 
was really won before the attack began. 



CHAPTER III 

THE BATTLE OF AMIENS ; THE ATTACK OF AUGUST 8TH 

Maps 2 and 3 ; and Panoramic Photograph 1. 

A summary of events on August 8th — The plan of attack of the Canadian Corps — The attack of 
the 3rd Canadian Division — The Franco-British liaison force — The advance of the 1st and 
2nd Canadian Divisions to the first objective — Their further advance to the second objective 
— The advance of the 4th Canadian Division to the third objective — The capture of the 
third objective by the 1st and 2nd Canadian Divisions — The result of the day's fighting bj 
the Canadian Corps — The Australian Corps plan of attack — -The advance of the 2nd and 3rd 
Australian Divisions to the first objective — The capture of the second objective by the 
4th and 5th Australian Divisions — The Armoured Cars — The advance of the 4th and 
5th Australian Divisions to the third objective — The result of the day's fighting by 
the Australian Corps — The action of the Cavalry Corps — The III Corps plan of attack 
— The disposition of the troops at " zero " — The attack on the first objective — The 
advance against tlie second objective — The result of the day's fighting by the III Corps 
— The work of the Royal Air Force — The attack by the First French Army — The situation 
on the Fourth Army front on the evening of August 8th — The orders for August 9th. 

The night of August 7th was fine, and the inactivity of the enemy's 

artillery confirmed the view that he was in ignorance of the coming blow. 

No untoward event marred the assembly of the 

^on' August s^tT" ^ troops, and, except north of the Somme, the curse of 

gas was absent. 

Punctually at 4.20 a.m., with the first gleam of da^\^l of a typical 
August day, the storm broke, and the British Army, which only a few 
months before was in danger of defeat, had begun its march to the Rhine. 
The first to start were the tanks, which, leaving their position of 
assembly about 1,000 yards behind the infantry " starting line " some 
minutes before " zero," had to time their advance so as to arrive close 
up to the artillery barrage at the moment it fell. At " zero " our artillery 
opened, and the creeping barrage fell 200 yards in front of the infantry 
" starting line," and was then Hfted according to the prearranged 
time-table.i 

For some days previously the sound-ranging sections ^ and flash- 
spotting observation posts, ^ sited well forward, had been engaged in locating 

' See page 25. 

2 These sections, which formed part of the Field Survey Battalion, were supplied with very 
delicate instruments which measured to the minutest fraction the pace at which sound travelled, 
and, by a very ingenious and accurate method of recording the noise of an explosion from several 
positions some distance apart, could locate the position of hostile guns when they fired. Sound- 
ranging was one of the many innovations which the discoveries of science introduced during the war. 

^ These observation posts, scattered along the front, located the direction of the flashes of 
hostile guns by visual observation, and, by taking cross bearings from two or more posts, were able 
to locate the exact position of any particular gun when it fired 

SI 



32 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY [August 8th 

the enemy's battery areas in conjunction with the Royal Air Force. Con- 
sequently, the moment the assault began the enemy's batteries, especially 
those in the valley south of Demuin, around Wiencourt-l'Equipee, and in the 
Cerisy-Gailly-Warfusee-Abancourt valley, were deluged by a hurricane 
bombardment and neutralised to such an extent that the hostile artillery 
retaliation was almost negligible.^ That the fire of the heavy artillery was 
most effective was also proved by the number of dead horses found lying 
in and about the enemy's battery positions. 

There was a thick mist in the early morning which did not clear 
completely imtil nearly 10 o'clock. Although this assisted us very 
materially by concealing from the enemy the launching of the attack, it 
made it difficult for the infantry and tanks to maintain direction. More- 
over, communications were rendered difficult both for the enemy and 
ourselves, and visual signalling was impossible. For the same reason, 
the work of the contact aeroplanes co-operating with the infantry was at 
first much restricted owing to the poor visibility, and early news of the 
attack was slow in coming through. 

South of the Somme the enemy was taken completely by surprise, 
and all opposition was quickly swept aside by the impetuosity of the 
Canadian and Australian advance. By 6.20 a.m. the first objective on 
the greater part of Canadian and Australian Corps fronts had been 
reached, and, after the pause of two hours arranged to allow the troops 
destined for the next advance time to get into position, the assaulting 
waves again went forward. 

Nothing could stop the infantry and tanks, and the cavalry, eagerly 
grasping the longed-for opportunity, went through. From that moment 
the issue of the day was never in doubt ; thousands of prisoners and 
hundreds of guns were captured. The disorganisation and rout of the 
enemy were complete, and it was only distance and fatigue which caused 
a halt on the final objective given to our troops for the day. North of 
the Somme our advance was not so rapid. The enemy clung tenaciously 
to the woods and gullies and gave grovmd only after determined fighting. 

Sir Arthur Currie's plan, drawn up in circumstances of con- 
siderable difficulty,^ was to attack on a front of three divisions, the 
3rd Canadian Division on the right, the 1st Division in the centre, and 
the 2nd Division on the left. Owing to the difficulties of the ground on 

' The fire of our heavy artillery on all villages east of the second objective and south of the 
Amiens-Chaulncs railway, with the exception of Le Quesnel, ceased at 10.50 a.m., six and a half 
hours after " zero," so as to fit in with the infantry and cavalry programme ; on the latter village 
it ceased an hour later. 

2 Owing to the shortness of the time available between the arrival of the Canadian Divisions 
in the area and the date of the attack, the Canadian Corps had little time in which to complete its 
arrangements. The ground, which was new to the corps, had to be reconnoitred, and the plans 
for the attack had to be made simultaneously with the concentration of the troops in the area 
This task, already sufficiently formidable, was made yet more difficult by the fact that, for pur- 
poses of secrecy, it was necessary for the 4th Australian Division to continue to hold the front 
line until just before "zero." On August 4th, the Canadian Corps took over its sector 
of attack from the Australian Corps, and, during the next three days, completed the relief of the 
Australian troops in the support area. It was not, however, until the early hours of August 8th 
that Canadian troops relieved the 13th Australian Brigade in the front line, the actual relief being 
completed and the Australian troops withdrawn into reserve at 2.10 a.m., a little over two hours 
before " zero." On relief, the 13th AustraUan Brigade moved to Aubigny to join the 1st Australian 
Division. 




c 
o 
o 

& 

w 



August 8th] THE BATTLE OF AMIENS 83 

the right, it was desirable that the attack between Rifle Wood and Demuin, 
both inclusive, should be carried out by one formation. This front com- 
prised nearly half of the whole of that allotted to the 
'^he^'cTnadian Corps° Canadian Corps, and it was considered that a whole 
division would be required for its capture. The task was 
allotted to the 3rd Canadian Division, the division, however, was only required 
to carry the attack as far as the second objective (red line), after which 
the 3rd Cavalry Division and 4th Canadian Division were to pass through 
and capture the third objective (blue dotted line). The ground on the 
left half of the corps front did not present the same difficulties, and it 
was divided between the 1st and 2nd Canadian Divisions, which 
were ordered to carry the attack through to the third objective (blue 
dotted line). Of the four battalions of heavy tanks detailed to co-operate 
with the Canadian Corps, one battalion of Mark V tanks was allotted to 
each of the three leading divisions, and a battalion of Mark V star tanks 
to the 4th Canadian Division to be employed in carrying forward Lewis 
and machine-gun teams to the third objective. 

On the right of the Canadian attack an Independent Force was formed 
under Brig.-Gen. Brutinel, the commander of the Canadian Machine Gim 
Corps. This force consisted of the 1st and 2nd Canadian Motor Machine 
Gun Brigades, the Canadian Cyclist Battalion, and one section of medium 
trench mortars mounted on lorries. The role assigned to it was to pass 
through the 3rd Canadian Division, form a flank to the corps bv 
making good the line of the Amiens-Roye road between the second and 
third objectives, and support the cavalry should it be able to advance 
beyond the third objective. 

The ground, which it was the task of the 3rd Canadian Division, 

commanded by Maj.-Gen. L. J. Lipsett, to capture, consisted of a 

TT, *f v f fi, 9 ^ plateau intersected by some deep ravines which ran 

cUSnoLLion do^™ to the Luce. The river, which protected the 

northern flank of the plateau, was an unfordable 

obstacle with very marshy ground on both banks, the marsh being in places 

as much as 200 yards wide. On the enemy's side of the river we onlv 

held the small bridgehead at Hourges, and this was completely dominated 

from the German trenches on the forward slopes of the plateau. 

These slopes, however, were slightly convex, so that an advance of 

about 1,000 yards from the bridgehead at Hourges would secure 

dead ground. The difficulty was to assemble troops and tanks in this 

small bridgehead, and to deploy them outwards from such a cramped 

position. 

Maj.-Gen. Lipsett decided to mass the 9th Canadian Brigade in the 
bridgehead before " zero," at which hour a portion of it was to advance 
rapidly, seize the edge of the plateau, and thus secure dead ground in 
which the brigade could deploy. The remainder of the brigade was then 
to move round eastwards along the river under the edge of the plateau 
and outflank the enemy's defences. When the 9th Brigade had captured 
the first objective (green line), the 7th Brigade was to pass through and 
carry on the advance to the second objective (red line) on the whole 
divisional front. The 8th Canadian Brigade was to capture Hangard, and, 



34 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY [August Sth 

operating along the north bank of the Luce as far as Demuin, was to assist 
the right flank of the 1st Canadian Division. 

The 3rd Canadian Division was assisted by the 5th Mark V Tank 
Battalion, of which two companies, each consisting of fourteen tanks, were 
allotted to the 9th Brigade, one company of fourteen tanks to the 8th 
Brigade, and six tanks to the 7th Brigade.^ One of the tank companies 
allotted to the 9th Brigade was assembled during the night of August 7th 
on the south bank of the Luce, having, by permission of the 42nd French 
Division, crossed the river before " zero " by the bridge at Thcnnes, 
which was outside the 3rd Canadian Division boundary. The other 
company assembled on the north side of the river close to the bridge at 
Domart. It was not considered advisable for this company to cross the 
river before " zero," as the danger of the enemy hearing the noise of the 
engines crossing the bridge, which was less than 1,000 yards from his 
lines, was too great. In spite of the difficulties caused by the lack of 
crossings over the Luce and by the bad approaches to the bridges, the 
assembly of the troops and tanks was carried out in silence and without a 
hitch. The Australians were relieved, and the Canadian troops were in 
their starting positions by 4 a.m. 

All the tanks started from their assembly positions eight minutes before 
" zero " ; at " zero " the artillery barrage opened, and the infantry, 
keeping well up to it, advanced to the assault. The particularly heavy 
mist which hung over the Luce valley, while undoubtedly helping to 
reduce our casualties, made it very difficult for the troops to keep direction. 
The 9th Brigade on the right attacked with the 43rd, 116th, and 58th 
Battalions from right to left in the front line, and with the 52nd Battalion 
in support ; the 8th Brigade, Avhich had a smaller front and a more 
limited objective, attacked with the 1st Canadian Mounted Rifle Bat- 
talion leading, and the 2nd C.M.R. Battalion in support ; the 4th and 5th 
C.M.R. Battalions were held in divisional reserve. The hostile barrage, 
which did not come doAvn until about five minutes after " zero," was 
rather wild and not particularly heavy, though Domart bridge, as had 
been expected, received a great deal of attention. Luckily, the soil on 
each side of the road at this point was very marshy, and the effect of the 
shells bursting on the soft ground was very much localised. 

The task of the 43rd Battalion on the extreme right of the 9th Brigade 
was a particularly difficult one. Owing to the glacis slope running down 
to the Luce from the edge of Rifle Wood, a direct attack would probably 
have been very costly. The 43rd Battalion, therefore, moved eastwards 
a short way along the Luce and enveloped the wood from the north.^ 
Detachments entered the wood soon after 5 a.m., but it was not until 

' In addition four supply tanks for carrying engineer material, ammunition, and stores were 
allotted to the division, of which two were allotted to the 7th Brigade, which had the furthest 
distance to go, and one to each of the other two brigades. 

2 The care and thoroughness with which subordinate commanders worked out their detailed 
arrangements for the attack are well illustrated by the accompanying sketch, which shows the plan 
of the 43rd Battalion for the capture of Rifle and HoUan Woods. While one company made a 
direct frontal attack, the remaining three companies moved to the north. These three companies 
then swung to the south in succession, one company attacking Rifle Wood from the north, another 
company similarly swinging round on Hollan Wood from the same direction, and the last company 
making straight for Vignette Wood, which was known to contain a battery of guns. 




Ort 




ATTACK OF THE 9™ CANADIAN BEIGADE 

"^ i^^^^ AUGUST S ■ leiB 







copo yify 



No. 12. 



To face page 35. 













CANADIAN ENGINEERS KILLING IN THE CRATER BLOWN BY THE 
GERMANS IN THE BRIDGE AT HANGARD. 
Bv kind pcrmissiott of the Canadian Goi'ernment. 

No. I 3. 




CANADIANS CAPTURING A l,tR.\L-VN C.UN NEAR MEZIERES. 
By kind permission of the Canadian Government. 



August 8th] THE BATTLE OF AMIENS 85 

7.30 a.m. that the machine-gun nests were disposed of, and the wood 
finally captured. Hangard fell into the hands of the 8th Brigade without 
difficulty, and by 6.10 a.m. Demuin was occupied by the 58th Battalion.^ 
About 6.15 a.m. the 116th Battalion, by a turning movement, drove the 
enemy from the Rifle Wood-Hangard road, thus assisting the 43rd 
Battalion to clear Rifle Wood. By 8.30 a.m. the 9th Brigade had cap- 
tured Hollan Wood, the 8th Brigade had reached its objectives, while 
the 7th Brigade, which had followed up the 9th Brigade, was advancing 
eastwards from Rifle Wood to its starting position for the advance to 
the second objective. A gap of eighteen feet was found in the bridge 
at Hangard, but it was promptly repaired by the Canadian Engineers, 
and by 11 a.m. was ready for the passage of field artillery. 

The advance from the first to the second objective met with little 
resistance, many guns and prisoners were taken, and by 12 noon the 
whole of the second objective within its divisional boundaries was in the 
hands of the 3rd Canadian Division.^ This completed the task of the 
division for the day, and the 4th Canadian Division began to pass through 
on its way to the third and last objective of the Canadian Corps (blue 
dotted line). 

During the advance it was of the utmost importance that close touch 

should be kept by the 3rd Canadian Division with the left of the First 

French Army, especially as the latter was attacking 

liaison'Torce ^^rty minutes later than the Fourth Army. This was 

successfully accomplished by an international liaison 
force which was commanded by a French officer and consisted of 30 men 
of the 42nd French Division, with one mitrailleuse, and a platoon of the 
43rd Canadian Battalion. The liaison force thus formed acted under the 
orders of the officer commanding the 43rd Battalion. It proceeded along 
the southern edge of Rifle Wood and assisted in the capture of Hollan 
Wood. 

Simultaneously with the 3rd Canadian Division, the 1st Canadian 

Division, under the command of Maj.-Gen. A. C. MacDonncU, and the 

The advance of the ^?^ Canadian Division, under that of Maj.-Gen. 

1st and 2nd Canadian Sir H. E. Burstall, in the centre and on the left of 

Divisions to the first the corps front respectively, advanced under cover of 

objective ^.j^g barrage. The frontage allotted to both divisions 

was practically equal and was about 2,500 yards wide at the " starting 

hne," narrowing down to 1,500 yards and 2,000 yards respectively 

on the final objective (blue dotted line). Each division attacked 

on a front of one brigade, resuming the advance, as each successive 

objective was reached, with fresh brigades which " leap-frogged " 

the brigades which had carried out the previous attack. In the centre 

the 1st Canadian Division detailed the 3rd Canadian Brigade and the 4th 

Mark V Tank Battahon, consisting of forty-two tanks, to capture the first 

> It was during this advance that Corporal Harry Miner, 58th Canadian Battalion, 2nd 
Central Ontario Regiment, so distinguished himself. See Appendix E, No. 37. 

- In this attack the 3rd Canadian Division completely defeated the 225th (Prussian) Division, 
which was withdrawn the following day, having lost in prisoners alone 44 officers and 1,732 other 
ranks. The Canadians also captured men of the 14th Bavarian Division and 192nd Division, 
but the greater part of these divisions was opposed to the French. 



86 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY [August Sta 

objective. This brigade was reinforced by two battalions, one from each 
of the reserve brigades, to ensure sufficient weight being available to 
break the enemy's main line of resistance without delay. Regardless of 
hostile posts which held out, the forward troops pushed on boldly and 
quickly, leaving these strong points to be dealt with by the troops who 
followed them.^ As a result of these tactics, fighting was at one time 
going on simultaneously between Morgemont Wood and Aubercourt, an 
area more than 2,000 yards in depth. In Hangard Wood a strong hostile 
post at first checked a company of the 13th Canadian Battalion, but 
Corporal H. J. Good dashed forward alone and killed several of the gar- 
rison, the remainder then surrendering. ^ The western portion of the wood 
was speedily cleared with the aid of tanks, as was also Morgemont Wood, 
where a post with eight machine-gims was captured. The strongest 
resistance offered by the enemy was in a trench running across the divisional 
front just west of Aubercourt, and covering some of his main artillery 
positions. Thence the advance met little opposition, and the first objective 
was reached within the scheduled time at 6.20 a.m. 

On the left the 2nd Canadian Division attacked with the 4th Canadian 
Brigade leading, assisted by two companies of fourteen tanks each of the 
14th Mark V Tank Battalion. In the initial stages of the advance consider- 
able resistance was encountered by the 19th Battalion from a trench about 
1,000 yards east of the "starting line," but this was quickly overcome with 
the timely aid of the supporting tanks, which accounted for many nests 
of machine-guns. The co-operation of the 7th Brigade of the 2nd Aus- 
tralian Division on the left of the Canadians was also most effective. 
The Amiens-Chaulnes railway, the boundary between the Canadian and 
Australian Corps, had been strongly organised for defence, and there 
were many instances of the Australians assisting the advance of the 2nd 
Canadian Division with Lewis gun fire, as well as by sending small parties 
of infantry to assist in the capture of machine-gun posts along the railway, 
and of similar assistance rendered to the Australians by the 2nd Canadian 
Division. 

Soon after 6 a.m., when the heavy artillery lifted off Marcelcave, the 19th 
and 21st Battalions, parties of which had worked round to the north of 
the village, rushed it from the north and west. Heavy fighting occurred 
in the southern portion of the village, but, with the assistance of the tanks, 
the infantry succeeded in capturing the whole of it by 6.45 a.m., together 
with a large number of prisoners. Meanwhile, the mist was lifting and 
the enemy's field artillery and anti-tank guns, stationed east of the 
village, directed a heavy fire on OTir tanks over open sights. This unfor- 
timately resulted in heavy casualties to the tanks and their personnel, 
but, to compensate for this, the 5th Brigade Canadian Field Artillery 
and the 2nd Battalion Canadian Machine Gun Corps gave such efficient 
close support to the advance that the 19th and 21st Battalions reached 
their objectives by 6.55 a.m., and somewhat later Cancelette Wood ravine 
was captured by the 18th Battahon. By 7.45 a.m. the first objective 

• The capture of one of the strongest of these posts was achieved practically single-handed 
by Private John Croak, 13th Canadian Battalion, Quebec Regiment. See Appendix E, No. 13. 
' See Appendix E, No. 19. 




X 
■X. 



< 






y. 
(J 









O 

X 



August 8th] THE BATTLE OF AMIENS 37 

had thus been secured along the whole front of the 2nd Canadian 
Division. 

As soon as the leading brigades of the 1st and 2nd Canadian Divisions 

had reached the first objective, the creeping barrage was halted, and a 

protective barrage was put down a few hundred yards 

f^fh'J^ln'/.hi^Z in advance of the captured positions in order to deal 

to the second objective u 'I-i ^ . .. i -r» • 4.u 

With any possible hostile counter-attacks. During the 
pause of two hours previously arranged, the 1st and 5th Canadian Brigades 
closed up and, passing through the brigades on the first objective, formed 
up ready to continue the advance. At 8.20 a.m. the artillery lifted its 
fire, and the advance was renewed. The troops of the 1st Brigade went 
forward without difficulty as far as Ignaucourt and Lemaire Wood. 
Hostile machine-guns holding the western edge of Lemaire Wood disputed 
our advance, but were forced to surrender their positions when shelled 
by the supporting field artillery. On the right of the attack the Canadians 
came under heavy direct fire from the hill north of Cayeux. The village 
was, however, taken at a inish, and by 11.30 a.m., after some resistance 
on the southern edge of Ruisseau Wood and on the high ground north 
of Cayeux, the second objective had been gained without further difficulty 
along the front of the 1st Canadian Division. On the left the 5th 
Brigade encountered little resistance from the enemy's infantry, but a 
stubborn defence was put up by a large number of machine-guns 
scattered throughout the area. Many of these machine-guns were con- 
cealed in the standing crops, and had to be dealt with one by one by the 
infantry and tanks, as their positions were not sufficiently defined for the 
artillery to engage them with success. On the other hand in Pieuret 
Wood, where our advance was held up for a short time by the fire from 
nests of machine-guns, the field artillery was of great assistance and very 
soon drove the enemy from the wood towards Wiencourt-l'Equipee. By 
this time the gradual improvement in visibility materially assisted the 
enemy's machine-gunners in engaging our troops, and consequently a 
number of casualties were suffered when crossing the crests of the ridges 
during the advance. 

Little opposition was encountered in Wiencourt-l'Equipee, but there 
was heaxy fighting in and around Guillaucourt, which was effectively 
shelled by the Canadian field artillery, assisted by three guns and two 
howitzers captured from the enemy in Pieuret Wood. By 12.10 p.m. 
Guillaucourt had been captured, and the 5th Canadian Brigade moved 
forward to its objective. Soon after this the second objective was reached 
on the whole front of the 2nd Canadian Division.^ 

At 5.20 a.m., exactly an hour after the attack began, the 4th Canadian 
Division, under the command of Maj.-Gen. Sir David Watson, began its 

1 In this attack the 1st and 2nd Canadian Divisions were opposed, contrary to expectation, 
by two divisions, namely, the 117th and the 109th, the latter being in process of relief by the 
former. This was fortunate for us, as, first, we found the enemy in a state of disorganisation owing 
to the relief, and, secondly, our attack practically overwhelmed two divisions, one of which would, 
but for the fact of this relief, have been available as a reserve in back areas. Both these di^^sions 
suffered heavy losses, 48 officers and 1,810 other ranks of the 117th, and 25 officers and 869 other 
ranks of the 109th being captured. These divisions were withdrawn from the line on August 11th 
and 12th respectively, and the 109th division was shortly afterwards disbanded. One regiment 
of the 41st Division was also in this area. 



38 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY [August 8th 

advance and moved forward to the general line of the HoUan Wood-Demuin 
road. It had been detailed to pass through the 3rd Canadian Division, 
The advance oi the 4th ^^^' following up the 3rd Cavalry Division, to seeure 
Canadian Division to the third objective. The 1st Tank Battalion, which 
the third objective -^vas attached to this division, consisted of thirty- 
four Mark V star tanks, each of which carried one machine-gun and two 
Lewis gun detachments. The tanks were to precede the infantry, and, 
having reached the third objective, were to disembark the detachments, 
which were to hold that line until the arrival of the infantry. 

It was not possible to foretell the exact hour at which the division 
would pass through the 3rd Canadian Division on the second objective, 
but, as soon as news was received that the second objective had been 
captured, Maj.-Gen. Watson issued orders for the advance to begin; 
at 12.40 p.m. the leading brigades with the tanks passed through the 
3rd Canadian Division. The advance was made with the 11th Brigade 
on the right, the 12th Brigade on the left, and with the 10 th Brigade and 
the 4th Battalion Canadian Machine Gun Corps in support. 

About three hours before the 4th Canadian Division began to 
advance from the second objective, the 3rd Cavalry Division had 
passed through the 3rd Canadian Division, with the Canadian Cavalry 
Brigade leading. The Canadian Cavalry Brigade captured Beaucourt 
village and reached the outskirts of Beaucourt Wood, which was 
found strongly held. A gallant attempt to gallop the wood was 
not successful. When the 11th Canadian Brigade arrived on the 
scene, the Canadian Cavalry Brigade was holding the eastern edge of 
Beaucourt village, but all attempts to advance beyond this were held 
up owing to machine-gun fire from Beaucourt Wood, which swept the 
open ground over which the advance must be made. The commanding 
officer of the 54th Battalion, after a daring personal reconnaissance, 
realised that no further headway could be made until the wood was taken, 
and that unless it was taken at once the advance of the whole brigade, 
and also of the division, was in danger of being checked. Notwithstanding 
that the wood was outside his own line of advance, he decided to attack 
it. No artillery, trench mortar, or machine-gun support was immediately 
available, but without any hesitation he deployed two platoons of his 
reserve company, and at a given signal led his men to the assault. 
Despite the entire absence of cover and the deadly intensity of the enemy's 
machine-gun fire, the gallant survivors effected an entry into the wood. 
At this moment the 102nd Battalion most opportunely arrived, and, with 
the assistance of the 72nd Battalion of the 12th Brigade, which attacked 
simultaneously from the north-west, succeeded in clearing the wood by 
4.30 p.m. after stiff fighting, and in establishing a line on its southern 
edge. 

South of Beaucourt Wood the ground was very open and devoid of 
cover ; consequently, when attempts were made to push forward to Le 
Quesnel, the Canadians suffered a considerable number of casualties from 
machine-gun fire from Fresnoy-en-Chaussee and the outskirts of Le Quesnel. 
As the resistance increased towards the evening it was decided to postpone 
the attack on Le Quesnel until next morning, and o\ir line was consolidated 



August 8th] THE BATTLE OF AMIENS 39 

on the eastern edge of the plateau north of Fresnoy-en-Chaussee and 
along the southern edge of Beaucourt Wood. 

On the left of the 4th Canadian Division advance, the 12th Brigade, 
upon emerging from the Peronne and St. Quentin woods, came under 
heavy fire, chiefly from the right front, where the enemy had many 
machine-guns posted on the edges of the woods and in the chalk pits. 
The opposition was finally overcome by successful co-operation between 
a company of the 78th Battalion, the 13th Battery of Canadian Field 
Artillery, four or five tanks of the 1st Tank Battalion, and a medium 
trench mortar, during which the company of the 78th Battalion was 
handled with conspicuous skill by Lieut. Tait.'^ The 12th Brigade then 
pressed forward and by 6.15 p.m. had occupied the final objective. 

In the meantime, about 11.15 a.m., while the 2nd Canadian 

Division was employed in clearing Guillaucourt, the 9th and 2nd 

Th ture oJ the Cavalry Brigades of the 1st Cavalry Division, which 

third objective by had followed closely behind the infantry, passed 

the 1st and 2nd through and reached the Amiens outer defences 

Canadian Divisions ^^^^j^ ^j ^^^ railway. Behind them on the right, 

the 2nd Canadian Brigade, which had assumed the lead in the 

1st Canadian Division, started from the second objective at 11.30 a.m. ; 

advancing rapidly, it cleared Caix and arrived at its final objective about 

1.15 p.m. On the left the 6th Canadian Brigade, detailed to carry forward 

the advance of the 2nd Canadian Division to the final objective, was at 

1 p.m. in position east of Marcelcave waiting for orders to move through 

the 5th Brigade. These orders were not received until 2.30 p.m. o^^^ng 

to the difficulties which had been experienced by the 2nd Canadian Division 

in maintaining its communications. By 4.30 p.m., however, the 6th 

Brigade had passed the second objective, and, advancing without meeting 

any resistance, arrived at the final objective on the Amiens outer defences 

at 5.35 p.m. 

As the result of the day's fighting, the Canadian Corps had 
captured the villages of Hangard, Demuin, Aubercourt, Marcelcave, 
The result of the Beaucourt, Ignaucourt, Cayeux, Wiencourt-l'Equipee, 
day's fighting by Guillaucourt, and Caix, and had secured the whole of its 
the Canadian Corps objectives except on the right, where the enemy 
still stubbornly defended the village of Le Quesnel. On the left the 
2nd Canadian Division had penetrated the enemy's territory to a depth 
of 14,000 yards, and had established connection with the Australian 
Corps on the Amiens outer defences south-east of Harbonnieres. On the 
right the Independent Force had done fine work during the day and 
had materially assisted the advance of the left of the XXXI French 
Corps, especially in the capture of Mezieres. At nightfall the Canadian 
Corps was in touch with the French on the Amicns-Roye road north of 
Fresnoy-en-Chaussee. One hundred and foiu-tccn officers, 4,919 other 
ranks, and 161 guns were captured by the Canadians, together with 
several hundred machine-guns and large quantities of Avar material. 

The manner in which the Canadian Corps, in spite of the short time 
it had had for preparation and of the difficulties it had to overcome on its 

* See Appendix E, No 42. 



40 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY [August 8th 

right, carried out the task allotted to it on August 8th will always rank 
as one of the finest performances accompUshed by this famous corps during 
the Great War, 

On the left of the Canadians, the Australian Corps was to attack 

between the Amiens-Chaulnes railway and the Somme. Sir John 

Monash decided that the operation should be 

'**' ^^^'of ^ta^cr'' carried out on a front of two divisions. He detailed 

the 2nd and 3rd Australian Divisions, on the right and 

left respectively, to capture the first objective, on reaching which there 

was to be a pause of two hours in the advance. This pause was arranged 

to give time for the 5th and 4th Australian Divisions to pass through and 

captui-e the second and third objectives, the latter including the Amiens 

outer defences. It was synchronised with a similar pause of two hours 

in the advance of the 1st and 2nd Divisions of the Canadian Corps. The 

1st Australian Division, which had only arrived from the north on 

August 7th, was held in corps reserve about Allonville and Daours.^ 

At 4.20 a.m. the 2nd Australian Division, under the com- 
mand of Maj.-Gen. C. Rosenthal, and the 3rd Australian Division, 
The advance of the 2nd Under that of Maj.-Gen. J. Gellibrand, attacking with 
and 3rd Australian the 7th and 5th, and the 9th and 11th Brigades, 
Divisions to the first respectively, moved steadily forward under the 
objective barrage towards their objectives. Each attacking 

brigade was allotted one company of twelve tanks of the 2nd and 
13th Mark V Tank Battalions, of which, generally speaking, sections 
were sub-allotted to battalions.^ Notwithstanding the hea'\'y mist 
which, combined with the smoke shell and the dust raised by 
the barrage, made the maintenance of direction difficult, the attack 
was driven home with great energy. The resistance met with 
was generally weak, hostile machine-gun nests and strong points 
cavising the only difficulties. One of these strong points which was 
temporarily holding up the advance was dealt \vith by Lieut. Alfred 
Gaby, 28th Australian Battalion, who, single-handed, compelled the 
surrender of 50 Germans with four machine-guns. ^ Some stout-hearted 
Germans in the neighboiu-hood of Warfusee-Abancourt put up a good fight, 
but an encircling movement by the infantry assisted by tanks soon resvdted 
in their capture, together with a 5"9-inch battery complete with its officers. 
It had been expected that the capture of Accroche Wood, which lay just 
within the enemy's lines, would prove a difficult task, but the surprise 
of the enemy was so complete and the fog so dense that the garrison, which 
was a large one, was overwhelmed and driven by our barrage into its 
dug-outs, from which for the most part it emerged only to surrender. At 
different points, where the groimd was more difficult, the rate of advance, 

^ M)wing to the fact that the 13th Australian Brigade had been ordered to hold the Canadian 
Corps front of attack until the early morning of August 8th, the 1st Australian Brigade had been 
lent to the 4th Australian Division to replace it. The 4th Di\Tsion, on August 8th, therefore 
consisted of the 1st, 4th, and 12th Brigades, whilst the 1st Division consisted of the 2nd, 3rd, 
and 13th Brigades. 

' One supply tank, loaded up with ammunition and engineer stores of all kinds, was also 
allotted to each infantry brigade. 
^ See Appendix E, No. 18. 



i 



s= * 







■r. 



■r. 



■~J 5 



■r. 

2: .5 



2: 

O 



a. 



August 8th] THE BATTLE OF AMIENS 41 

owing to the density of the mist, was slower than had been expected, 
and the infantry was iinable to keep close up to the barrage. The dangers 
resulting from this were neutralised, however, by the good work of the 
tanks which were of the greatest possible assistance in attacking strong 
points, thus enabling the infantry to capture them at small cost. 

On the right a liaison force of two infantry companies was given 
the task of ensuring the maintenance of touch with the 4th Brigade of 
the 2nd Canadian Division, which also detailed a party for the same 
purpose. As a result the closest touch and excellent co-operation were 
maintained throughout the advance. 

3yjG.20 a.m., or soon afterwards, the whole of the first objective had 
been captured'; the creeping barrage was then halted, and the protective 
barrage was put down while the infantry reorganised. 

During the pause on the first objective the 5th Australian Division, 
under the command of Maj.-Gen. Sir J. J. T. Hobbs, and the 4th Aus- 
The capture of the tralian Division, under that of Maj.-Gen. E. G. Sinclair- 
second objective Maclagan, which had been following behind the 2nd 
by the 4th and 5th and 3rd Australian Divisions, passed through them, the 
Australian Divisions ^^^^^ g^,^^ ^2th^ ^^^ ^^^ Brigades leSding, from 

right to left, and took up their positions ready to continue the advance 
at 8.20 a.m. There were attached to each of these four brigades 
a brigade of field artillery and a section of an engineer field 
company, the whole forming a brigade group under the infantry brigade 
commander. The field artillery of these two divisions had previously 
been assisting in the barrage which covered the advance to the first 
objective, but had kept its gvm teams handy, and, directly the infantry 
had reached the first objective, it limbered up and moved forward to 
join its brigade groups. Each division was given thirty Mark V tanks, 
which had not been engaged in the first phase, from the 2nd, 8th, and 
13th Tank Battalions, and was also given one and half companies of the 
15th Tank Battalion, equipped with Mark V star tanks, to carry machine- 
gun and Lewis gun detachments. These tanks advanced close in rear 
of the attacking brigades, ready to move forward to the third objective as 
exploiting detachments as soon as the second objective had been reached. 

Meanwhile, behind the attacking divisions the 1st Cavalry Brigade, 
with sixteen whippet tanks, moved up in the closest touch with the infantry, 
ready to dash forward the moment the opportimity arrived. The 17th 
Armoured Car Battalion, consisting of twelve cars, also moved up as soon 
as the crews, helped by the 5th Australian Pioneer Battalion, had repaired 
the road sufficiently for the cars to pass. 

Ptmetually to time, at 8.20 a.m. the advance to the second objective 
began. The enemy's artillery retaliation on the front of the 5th Australian 
Division was shght, and, shortly after leaving the first objective, the infantry 
came upon the enemy's battery positions. In the majority of cases the 
detachments had already abandoned their guns, but in some cases they 
stuck manfully to their positions and only surrendered when the batteries 
were captured at the point of the bayonet. On the right just east of 
Marcelcave, a battery of 5'9-inch howitzers was encountered firing at the 
infantry over open sights. One company of the 57th BattaUon, 15th 



/ 
I 



42 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY [August 8th 

Brigade, manoeuvred to attack the howitzers, while a tank drove straight 
at the battery, only to be knocked out at forty yards' range before 
reaching it. Meanwhile, a second tank worked round the flank, and, as 
soon as it was discovered, the enemy jumped out of their gun-pits and 
surrendered. The village of Bayonvillers was not attacked frontally 
until after it had been outflanked by the leading battalions. The 58th 
Battalion, assisted by six Mark V tanks, was given the task of " mopping " 
it "up,"^ which was accomplished without much difficulty. By about 
9 a.m. the leading battalions of the 5th Australian Division had reached 
the second objective, and about a quarter of an hour later the 1st Cavalry 
Brigade pushed its advanced guards through the right brigade of that 
division. 

On the left the 4th Australian Division was almost equally successful, 
but, as the attack of the III Corps had not been able to progress as rapidly 
as that of the Australians, the enemy's artillery and machine-gun fire 
from the Chipilly spur, north of the Somme, caused casualties among the 
infantry and unfortvmately knocked out a large number of tanks. In 
spite of the severity of this fire, the attacking units advanced in good 
order, meeting with some resistance on the right from Lena Wood. 
This was speedily overcome, and several guns were captured. Prisoners 
came in freely throughout the advance, and many field and heavy 
guns and howitzers fell into our hands. In many localities machine- 
g\in nests were encountered ; these were either dealt with by tanks or quickly 
outflanked and rushed by the infantry. By 10.30 a.m. the 4th Australian 
Division had reached the second objective all along its front. 

Shortly before the second objective was reached, the 17th Armoured 

Car Battalion, seeing that there was httle resistance to the advance, 

went through the infantry along the main Amiens- 

The armoured gj-jg j-^ad, and after passing through a light 
artillery barrage, succeeded in obtaining excellent 
targets. After reaching La Flaque the crews of the armoured cars 
inflicted heavy casualties on the enemy by shooting do^vn the valley 
west of Foucaucourt. The road here soon became blocked with hostile 
transport, the drivers of which, taking alarm at the sight of the cars, 
lost control of their animals, and many of the vehicles collided and fell 
across the road. The armoured cars then tm*ned north and south to 
Proyart and Framerville. At the latter place many of the enemy were 
killed, much of his transport was destroyed, and the hostile rear services 
were thoroughly disorganised. At Proyart the armotired cars surprised some 
of the staff of the LI Corps Headquarters snatching a hasty meal, appar- 
ently ignorant that the battle had come so near. Their surprise was 
short-lived, for fire was opened on them through the windows of the room 
in which they were sitting. It was an unlucky chance that the Corps 
Commander had left in his car only about half an hour before the arrival 
of the armoured cars. The cars then patroUed the area until dusk, greatly 
adding to the enemy's demoralisation. 

1 " Mopping up " is a term commonly used to describe the clearing of trenches, dug-outs, 
fortified posts, etc., in which the enemy continues to hold out after the leading waves of an 
attack have passed. 







z 
z 






s 



August 8thJ THE BATTLE OF AMIENS 43 

So rapid had been the advance to the second objective that the 
Mark V star tanks, which had been detailed to follow up the cavalry to 
the Amiens outer defences, were not able to come up 
4th and 5th Australian in time, and the 15th and 8th Brigades of the 5th Aus- 
Divisions to the third tralian Division, and the 12th and 4th Brigades of the 
obiective ^^j^ Austrahan Division, after a short interval for re- 

organisation, decided to push on without them. The 15th Brigade 
and its attendant tanks, having " mopped up " Harbonnieres and 
hoisted the Australian flag on the church tower, arrived at the third 
and final objective without difficulty about 10.30 a.m., the 8th 
Brigade reaching it about half an hour later. The brigades of the 
4th Australian Division, owing to the losses incurred from the hostile 
fire on the left flank, were not ready to advance as early as those of the 
5th Australian Division. They moved off from the second objective 
about 11 a.m. and again incurred heavy casualties, as the enemy had 
brought more guns into action on the north bank of the river. Taking 
advantage, however, of the folds in the ground and of all other available 
cover, and making light of the enemy's machine-gun defence, the division 
pushed gallantly on, using clever enveloping tactics, and soon after noon 
reached the final objective. As the troops on the extreme left were 
exposed to enfilade fire and to fire from their rear, the flank of the left 
battalion was s-v\Ting back south of Mericotu-t-sur-Somme. As soon as 
it was seen that the advance north of the river was checked, the 1st 
Brigade, which had been held in reserve to the 4th Australian Division, 
established an outpost line along the southern bank of the Somme west- 
wards from Morcourt. 

The final result of the day's fighting by the Australian Corps was the 

capture of the whole of the objectives allotted to it, except a small portion 

The result of the day's *^^ ^^^ extreme left. The villages of Warfusee- Abancom't, 

fighting by the Lamottc-en-Santerre, Bayonvillers, Harbonnieres, Mor- 

Austraiian Corps com-f, Gailly, and the greater portion of the village 

of Cerisy-Gailly had been taken, and touch had been established on the 

right with the Canadian Corps. On the left, however, a junction with the 

III Corps had not been effected, the situation north of the river still 

being obscure. 

One hvmdred and eighty-three officers, 7,742 other ranks, ^vith 
173 guns and numerous machine-guns, trench mortars, and anti-tank 
rifles were captured during the day, whilst the casualties of the corps 
were not only very slight, but were much less than the number of prisoners 
taken.i Never had the Australian Corps had such a successful day, and, 
as it was the first time it had been in action as a corps of five divisions, 
the result was especiaUy satisfactory both to it and to its commander. 
Sir John Monash. Moreover, not only their careful preparation for the 
attack itself, but all their laboiu- and' persistent offensive tactics of the 
previous three months were reaping a splendid harvest. 

' In this attack the Australians were opposed by the 41st (East Prussian) and 13th (West- 
phalian) Divisions on cither side of the Amiens-Brie road, as well as by elements of the 108th 
and -ISrd Reserve Divisions, which were relievinc; each other astride the Somme. So severely 
were the 108th and 43rd Reserve Divisions handled in this and the subsequent days' fighting 
that they were both shortly afterwards disbanded. 



44 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY [August 8th 

Before describing the attack of the III Corps north of the Somme, 
it is necessary to give a more detailed accovint of the dashing work done 
by the Cavalry Corps in the main attack on the opening 
"JaU'ry'Sofpf' d^y of the Battle of Amiens. 

At " zero " the troops of the Cavalry Corps, having 
passed through Amiens, were concentrated in the triangle formed by the 
Villers Bretonneux and Roye roads east of Longueau. At 5.20 a.m. 
the heads of the 1st and 9th Brigades of the 1st Cavalry Division (1st, 
2nd, and 9th Brigades), commanded by Maj.-Gen. R. L. MuUins, were 
about one mile north-east of Cachy. The 3rd Cavalry Division (6th, 7th, 
and Canadian Brigades), commanded by Maj.-Gen. A. E. W. Harman, was 
also well forward just west of Cachy, with the Canadian Brigade lead- 
ing. The 2nd Cavalry Division (3rd, 4th, and 5th Brigades), commanded 
by Maj.-Gen. T. T. Pitman, was in reserve at the road junction east of 
Longueau. Following the Canadian Corps as it advanced, the 3rd Cavalry 
Division Avas confronted with the difficulty of crossing the Luce, but, 
owing to the successful reconnaissance carried out by the cavalry patrols 
which had accompanied the infantry, and to the excellent arrangements 
made for crossing trenches, the Canadian Cavalry Brigade started to cross 
at Ignauco^irt at 9.20 a.m. 

At this time the two leading brigades of the 1st Cavalry Division were 
astride the Villers Bretonneux-Chaulnes railway near Marcelcave, with the 
9th Cavalry Brigade south of the railway following the 2nd Canadian 
Division, and the 1st Cavalry Brigade north of the railway in rear of the 
5th Australian Division. The remaining brigades of the 3rd and 1st 
Cavalry Divisions were following close behind, and the 2nd Cavalry 
Division, with the reserve whippet tanks, was massed on the plateau 
between Cachy and L'Abbe Wood. 

The 3rd Cavalry Division, having crossed the Luce at Ignaucourt, 
passed through the infantry. On approaching Beaucoiirt, which was 
held by the enemy, two parties of the Canadian Cavalry Brigade worked 
roimd to the north and south of the village. The southern party, consist- 
ing of two troops of Strathcona's Horse, reached the Amiens-Roye road 
without difficulty, and penetrated as far as Fresnoy-en-Chaussee, where 
125 prisoners were captured. The further advance of this party was, 
however, held up south-west of Beaucourt Wood. The northern party, 
consisting of the Royal Canadian Dragoons M'ith eight whippets, was 
also checked north-west of the wood. The whippet tanks came into 
action in support, but were unable to reach the wood on account of the 
fire of the enemy's field guns. Beaucourt village was captured by the 
main body of the Canadian Cavalry Brigade with great dash, but it was 
unable to advance east of the village. The situation in front of Beaucourt 
Wood remained unchanged until the arrival of the 11th Brigade of the 4th 
Canadian Division, which passed through the Canadian cavalry and 
captured the wood later in the day.^ 

On the left of the Canadian Cavalry Brigade, the 7th Cavalry Brigade 
pushed forward south of Cayeux and carried the wood south of the village 
at the gallop, taking 200 prisoners. It then gained the high ground south 

* See page 38. 



•^ 




a: 



02 



O 






'J 






August 8th] THE BATTLE OF AMIENS 45 

of Caix in the next bound and captured another 100 prisoners, five machine- 
guns, and six heavy guns. The 7th Cavalry Brigade was followed by the 
6th Cavalry Brigade, which, after passing through Cayeux Wood, advanced 
in a southerly direction towards Le Quesnel. Hostile machine-guns in 
Beaucourt Wood and Le Quesnel checked the right of the brigade, but 
the left pushed forward in conjunction with the 7th Cavalry Brigade, and 
by 2.35 p.m. had occupied the Amiens outer defences, which it held until 
the arrival of the 4th Canadian Division. 

Hearing of the resistance encountered in Beaucourt Wood, Sir 
Charles Kavanagh ordered two brigades of the 2nd Cavalry Division 
forward from corps reserve with a view to their assisting the left of the 
3rd Cavalry Division by moving north of the Luce ; the successful advance, 
however, of the 7th Cavalry Brigade enabled the 3rd Cavalry Division to 
reach its objective on the left unaided. 

Meanwhile, the 1st Cavalry Division passed through the infantry of 
the 2nd Canadian and 5th Australian Divisions when they reached 
the neighbourhood of Guillaucourt and Bayonvillers. The 1st Cavalry 
Brigade, north of the railway, advanced rapidly to Harbonnieres, 
which it enveloped, moving north and south of the village. The 5th 
Dragoon Guards from the 1st Cavalry Brigade then pushed on towards 
Vauvillers, but, finding it strongly defended, masked it with one squadron 
and swung round to the north between it and Framerville. During this 
movement the regiment captured a train full of reinforcements, securing 
600 prisoners and a battery of guns. The opposition now became too 
great to allow of a further advance eastwards, and in consequence the 1st 
Cavalry Brigade, about noon, moved southwards to help the 9th Cavalry 
Brigade, which, operating south of the railway, had encountered considerable 
opposition from enemy machine-guns between Caix and Guillaucourt. 
Avoiding these machine-guns, the 9th Cavalry Brigade gained the valley 
south of Harbonnieres and, working up the valley, had by 1 p.m. 
reached the Amiens outer defences south-east of Harbonnieres, on the 
right of the 1st Cavalry Brigade. In order to secure the third objective 
east of Caix, the 2nd Cavalry Brigade, which had followed up the advance 
as far as Guillaucourt, was ordered at 1 p.m. to secure Caix and the Amiens 
outer defences east of that village. This was successfvilly carried out 
in conjunction with the 2nd Canadian Brigade, and touch was established 
with the 7th Cavalry Brigade on the right, and with the 9th Cavalry Brigade 
on the left, on the line of the final objective. The 1st Cavalry Division 
endeavoured to make further progress, but patrols from the 2nd and 9th 
Cavalry Brigades found Vrely and Rosieres-en-Santerre strongly occupied. 

When it was found that their assistance was not required, the two 
brigades of the 2nd Cavalry Division, which had been sent forward to 
reinforce the 3rd Cavalry Division, advanced north of the Luce and crossed 
the Amiens outer defences with the object of exploiting the enemy's 
disorganisation to the full. They found, however, that the hne 
Beaufort-Warvillers-Vrely-Rosieres-en-Santerre was strongly held by the 
enemy's reinforcements, chiefly machine-guns, and they were unable, there- 
fore, to make any serious progress. During the night of August 8th the 2nd 
Cavalry Division relieved the 3rd Cavalry Division. 



46 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH AR^F^ [August 8th 

The cavalry on August 8th did much useful work. In addition 
to the large number of prisoners, guns, and material which it actually cap- 
tured, its rapid advance and the bold manner in which it had been handled 
had a very marked effect on the enemy's moral. It was the first occasion 
on which, since the war began, the cavalry in France had been able to 
move rapidly across open country against a beaten enemy, and reap the 
fruits of a successful infantry and tank attack. 

The task that had been given to the III Corps in the operations was 
to secure the Amiens outer defences between the Somme and the Ancre, 
as a flank to the main attack of the Canadian and 
oUn™ attack Australian Corps south of the Somme. Owing to the 
difficulties of the ground, which have already been 
described, it was not considered possible for this task to be completed on 
the first day of the offensive, and a less distant objective was in conse- 
quence decided upon for August 8th. Sir Richard Butler's plan was to 
attack with three divisions. On the right, the 58th (London) Division, 
under the command of Maj.-Gen. F. W. Ramsay, and the 18th (Eastern) 
Division, under that of Maj.-Gen. R. P. Lee, were to attack shoulder to 
shoulder, with the right of the 58th Division making liaison on the Somme 
with the left of the Australian Corps. The 36th Brigade from the 12th 
(Eastern) Division was attached to the 18th Division to take the place 
of the 54th Brigade, which had been involved in the hostile attack by the 
27th Wiirttembcrg Division on August 6th. On the left, and north of the 
18th Division, after a gap of 500 yards on which no attack was to take 
place, the 12th Division, less the 36th Brigade, under the com- 
mand of Maj.-Gen. H. W. Higginson, was to attack on a front of 
2,000 yards. It was to capture a portion of the slopes leading down to 
the Ancre, with the idea of encircling Morlancourt in conjunction with the 
attack on the right and thus compelling the enemy to evacuate the 
village. 

The attack was to be carried out in two phases. In the first phase, 
the 58th Division, of which two battalions of the 175th Brigade were 
retained in corps reserve, and the 18th Division were to capture the first 
objective, which included Sailly Laurette and Malard Wood. In order 
to give the troops of the 58th Division a straight run at Malard Wood, it 
was very important that the attack on Sailly Laurette should be success- 
ful. The capture of this village was, therefore, to some extent regarded 
as a separate and preUminary operation, and a battalion was specially 
detailed for the purpose. After an hour's halt on the first objective, to 
enable the " leap-frogging " troops to get into position, the second phase 
was to begin. This phase entailed the capture of the second objective, 
which included the Chipilly spur, Gressaire Wood, the southern portion 
of Tallies Wood, and the Brickyard; the line to be reached bending 
back thence to the " starting line " on the left of the 18th Division 
front. 

For these operations three companies of tanks of the 10th Mark V 
Tank Battalion (twenty - two tanks) and twelve supply tanks were avail- 
able. Of these, one company was allotted to the 58th Division, and two 
companies to the 18th Division ; of the supply tanks the two brigades 



August 8th] THE BATTLE OF AMIENS 47 

destined for the final objective had three each, while each of the other 
three brigades engaged had two each. 

The disposition of The III Corps was disposed at "zero" as follows : 

the troops at 

"zero" Main attack. 

58th Division — right attack — 

174th Brigade for first objective (Green line), and 

2/lOth London (from 175th Brigade) to attack Sailly Laiirette. 

173rd Brigade (less 1 Battalion) for second objective (Red hne). 

1 Company, 10th Mark V Tank Battahon. 

1 Battalion (173rd Brigade) 1 j 

1 Battalion (36th Brigade) / ^° ^^^serve. 
18th Division— left attack — 

86th Brigade (less 1 Battalion) \ for first objective 
and 1 Battalion (55th Brigade) J (Green hne), 
53rd Brigade for second objective (Red line). 

2 Companies, 10th Mark V Tank Battalion. 
54th Brigade 1 j^ reserve 
55th Brigade (less 1 Battalion) J 

Subsidiary attack. 

12th Division — 
35th Brigade. 
37th Brigade (in reserve). 

Corps reserve. 

175th Brigade (less 1 Battalion). 
1/lst Northumberland Hussars.^ 
50th Battalion Machine Gun Corps. 

Defensive front. 
47th Division and 130th American Regiment. 

Under Army Headquarters. 
33rd American Division, less 1 Regiment. 

Owing partly to the uncertainty as to the exact position of the front 
line on the 18th Division front, due to the hostile attack on August 6th, 
and partly to the darkness of the night and some 
^flrst'ob^ect'ive^^ hostile gas shelling, great difficulties were encountered 
in launching the attack.^ Nevertheless, a good start 
was made in the thick mist, which, here as elsewhere, enveloped the battle- 
field. A powerful artillery barrage of 350 giuis, as well as the fire of some 
200 heavy howitzers and long-range guns, supported the infantry and tanks 

1 Each division was allotted one troop from the 1 Ast Northumberland Hussars. 

' The task of the 36th Brigade was made especially difficult by the fact that it was only 
placed at Maj.-Gen. Lee's disposal on August 7th to replace the 54th Brigade. It had, therefore, 
no time for previous reconnaissance of the ground In spite of this the brigade was ready on 
the " starting line" by 3.30 a.m 



48 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY [August 8th 

of the 18th and 58th Divisions. On the attack being launched it was 
found that the enemy's barrage was not formidable, but the hostile 
infantry, and especially the machine-gunners, resisted the advance with 
determination. At the time that the 174th Brigade was due to be in 
possession of Sailly Laurette and Malard Wood, the village had been 
taken, but the hostile posts in the wood were still uncaptured and for 
some hours continued to offer resistance. As was to be anticipated, the 
vmcertainty of the position on the front of the 18th Division at " zero " 
made the advance of the 36th Brigade riore difficult, and, at the moment 
when it should have been on the first objective, the situation was obscure 
and caused some anxiety. By 9 a.m., however, the position had been 
made good, partly by the troops originally detailed for the task, and 
partly by the 53rd Brigade moving up on its way to the second objective. 

On the left the subsidiary operation of the 12th Division, which was 
carried out by the 7th Norfolk and the 9th Essex of the 35th Brigade, 
went entirely according to plan and completed the success of the first 
phase of the attack. 

The second phase of the attack proved a more arduous task. On 

the right the 173rd Brigade was strongly opposed from the western slopes 

of the Chipilly spur by portions of the 108th and 43rd 

^e swjo^d'objeeule* Reserve Divisions, which, as has already been stated,^ 

were relieving each other astride the Somme. 

Our troops, advancing towards the second objective, on emerging 
from Malard Wood were met by heavy machine-gun fire from Chipilly 
and the Chipilly spur, and during August 8th it was not found possible 
to advance ovir line beyond the eastern outskirts of the wood, except for 
some small parties which worked their way forward in the first attack. 

On the left the 53rd Brigade had some hard fighting before it 
reached its starting position on the first objective. From there the left 
of the brigade pushed on against considerable opposition. The 7th 
Royal West Kent on the left, and the battalion commander and about 
eighty men of the 10th Essex in the centre, reached a line running south- 
eastward from the Brickyard ; the 8th Royal Berkshire, on the right 
of the 10th Essex, advanced along the northern edge of Malard Wood, 
but was unable to reach its objective, and parties of the enemy with 
machine-guns, working westward from Gressaire Wood, were thus able to 
attack the advanced troops of the 53rd Brigade in flank and rear. These 
advanced troops were in consequence compelled to withdraw, and only 
isolated detachments of our troops remained between the first and second 
objectives. 

Meanwhile, on the extreme left of the III Corps, the 12th Division 
had, as already described, gained the whole of its objective, and, except 
in the case of the 1/lst Cambridgeshire on the right, the position which 
had been reached was maintained. This battalion was forced back, but, 
attacking again at 12.15 p.m., was completely successfvd in regaining the 
lost ground. 

The eight hours' fighting of the morning, although yielding a substantial 
measure of success, had not given us all the ground we wanted, and 

1 See note to page 48. 



Panoramic photograph A'o. 2, to face page 48. 




>'j..0fom.< p/.D(orrdp* ,Vo. 2, in jm pat/ 48. 



-ChipiUy Spur- 




Thc CHIPILLY Spur from ihe CERISV— MORCUUR'l' ru.,J, 



r\ 



August 8th] THE BATTLE OF AMIENS 49 

in particular the Chipilly spiir. That such should have been the case was 
due partly to the stubborn resistance with which the enemy met the 
The result oi the attack, and for which he must be given full credit, and 
day's fighting by partly to the fact that the infantry was not able to 
the m Corps establish satisfactory co-operation with the tanks. The 
mist in the early morning and the gas shelling dxiring the night were 
probably the principal causes for this lack of co-operation between the 
two arms. Careful arrangements had been made beforehand for rendez- 
vous between tanks and individual infantry units, in many cases verbally, 
directly between the officers in command of the units concerned. These 
arrangements, unfortunately, could not be carried out. Neither the 
173rd Brigade nor the 53rd Brigade, whose role it was to go forward from 
the first to the second objective, found tanks awaiting them on the first 
objective as expected. Tlie 36th Brigade began operations without tanks. 
The 174th Brigade was more fortunate, as its tanks arrived to time and 
were of the greatest assistance in securing the first objective on the 
58th Division front. On the corps front as a whole, however, the two 
arms seem to have been by force of circumstances compelled to work 
independently. It must also be remembered that the ground in the 
III Corps sector, cut up as it was by deep ravines from the Somme valley 
in the south and from the Ancre on the north, was a far less favourable 
area for tanks to operate in successfully than were the areas of the 
AustraUan and Canadian Corps south of the Somme. 

The remainder of August 8th was fully occupied on the III Corps 
front in clearing up the ground gained, and in dealing with counter- 
attacks. One such counter-attack, which was delivered early in the day 
by the 27th Wiirttemberg Division and forced the advanced troops of 
the 18th Division round the Brickyard to withdraw, has already been 
mentioned. During the afternoon the artillery was called upon on three 
occasions to deal with hostile concentrations, and on each occasion was 
able to prevent the attack from materialising. The " mopping up " 
of the captured territory was, however, a more arduous matter, as parties 
of the enemy continued to hold out in Malard Wood after its capture, 
and a considerable time elapsed before their resistance was overcome by 
the 58th Division. As a result of the day's fighting the first objective 
on the front of the 58th and 18th Divisions, and the final objective of tlie 
12th Division, had been captured. While the casualties had been com- 
paratively heavier than in the main attack south of the river, they were 
by no means excessive and compared favourably with the large number 
of prisoners taken, which totalled 2,388, including 75 officers. About 
forty guns, together with numerous machine-guns and other material, 
were also captured. It was unfortunate that the III Corps, which had 
to advance over such difficult country, should have found the enemy 
expecting a counter-attack on account of the success of his operation 
on August 6th. The element of surprise, whicli helped us so much on 
the rest of the front, was, therefore, to a great extent lacking on the front 
of the III Corps. When the spirited nature of the enemy's resistance, 
the difficulties the 18th and 58th Divisions encountered, and the fact 
that they had been heavily engaged on many occasions earlier in the 



50 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARJilY [August 8th 

year ,^ are taken into account, the manner in which these divisions, largely 
composed as they were of young and only partially trained soldiers, 
endeavoured to carry out their task was worthy of all praise. 

Throughout the battle most valuable work was performed by the 
Royal Air Force. During the early morning flying was restricted by the 
thick mist, but directly the weather cleared our aero- 
^yaT°^ Force plancs could be seen everywhere hovering over the 
enemy's territory at various altitudes searching for 
prey. Apart from the usual artillery and contact patrol work, two, and 
sometimes three, scout squadrons flew over each corps front, engaged 
solely in attacking the enemy's troops and transport from low altitudes. 
Flying very low, which, even in trench warfare, is extremely dangerous 
on account of the machine-gun fire from the ground, otu* aeroplanes 
completed the demoralisation of the enemy by attacking his retiring troops 
and transport with bombs and machine-gun fire, and by shooting gun 
teams in the act of withdra^nng the guns. Early in the morning, some 
low-flying aeroplanes discovered an 11-inch long-range railway gun, 
which had been used in the bombardment of Amiens, busily firing, although 
our infantry was advancing within about 1,000 yards of its position. 
Swooping down close to the gun our airmen dropped a number of bombs 
on it with such effect that, when the troops of the 5th Australian Division 
arrived on the spot, they found the whole gun crew of about twenty men 
either killed or wounded. We lost on August 8th about forty aeroplanes, 
many of which were brought down by machine-gun fire from the ground. 
The results obtained, however, were well worth the losses incurred.^ 

As soon as the advance began our observation balloons were pushed 
well forward with the greatest rapidity. They obtained much useful 
information and performed valuable service in directing the fire of the 
mobile artillery. 

At 5 a.m., forty minutes after the attack of the Fourth Army was 
launched, and just as the infantry of the 3rd Canadian Division was 
entering Rifle Wood, the troops of the First French 
F^strJench^Army Army advanced to the assault. Their attack was 
preceded by a very heavy artillery bombardment of 
the enemy's position, which began at 4.20 a.m., up to which hour only 
normal artillery activity had been permitted. The attack against the 
commanding ground in the angle between the Avre and the Luce was 
made by two divisions of the XXXI French Corps, while a third division 
was told off to capture the town of Moreuil. The enemy resisted stub- 
bornly, but was gradually driven back and Moreuil Wood captured, thus 
securing the flank of the Foixrth Army. The French advance then 
continued until the villages of Villers-aux-Erables and Mezieres were 
reached. At the former village some British tanks had been detailed to 
co-operate with the French should they require assistance, but the tanks were 
unable to come up in time. The Canadian Independent Force, however, 
co-operated with the French most successfully and assisted them in the 

> They both suffered severely in the March retreat. 

* The pluck and endurance of our airmen are well illustrated by the story of Captain Feli-x 
West, 8th Squadron, Royal Air Force. See Appendix E, No. 48. 



.Vo- 20. 



To face />«?'• '^'- 




THE II-1.\CH NAVAL GUN ON KAILWAV MOUNTING CAPTURED BY THE 
ROYAL AIR FORCE AND AUSTRALIANS ON AUGUST 8tII. 
By kind ptTinission of the Australian Gcnrriimttit. 

.\o. il. 




FRENCH AND CANADIAN TROOPS ON THE ROYE ROAD. 
By kiitJ piTmiision oj the Canadian Government. 



A'O. 22. 



To face page 5 1 . 




British official photograph. 
No. 23. 



SOMK Ol- THK GUNS TAKIiN ON AUGUST 8tH. 




SOME OF illE 



PRISONERS CAPTURED ON AUGUST 8tH. 



/I'ri/iJ' (ftfi.ial tihalti\fTiiph. 



August 8th] THE BATTLE OF AMIENS 51 

capttire of both Villers-aux-Erables and Mezieres, which were in French 
hands bv 1 p.m. 

By "the end of the day the First French Army had made valuable 
progress and, though Fresnoy-en-Chaussee was still in the enemy's hands, 
Moreuil and Plessier-Rozainvillers were in the possession of the French, 
and the junction of the Allies was assured by the Canadian Independent 
Force. As a result of the fighting about 150 officers, 3,000 
other ranks, and a number of guns were captured by the French.^ 

On the evening of August 8th the situation on the Fourth Army 

front was most satisfactory. The main attack south of the Somme had 

been successful almost beyond the most sanguine 

Fourtr'^y^ front on expectations, and the Canadian and Austrahan Corps 

the evening of had reached their final objectives, except for a small 

August 8th portion on their extreme northern and southern flanks. 

The losses of these two corps had been exceptionally light, the largest 
capture of prisoners and guns taken on any one day during the war 
on the western front had been made, and, in addition, the enemy's 
troops were thoroughly demoralised. Prisoners from eleven different 
divisions had been captured by the Fourth Army, there were few hostile 
reserves immediately available, and the prospects of further success on the 
follownng day were extremely bright. 

Orders were accordingly issued by Sir Henry Rawlinson for the 

advance to be continued next morning with a view to reaching the 

general line Roye-Chaulnes-Bray-sur-Somme-Dernan- 

^^ugustlth" court. The Canadian Corps was to establish itself on 
the general line Roye-Hattencourt-Hallu. The 
Australian Corps, conforming in the first instance with the advance of the 
Canadian Corps was to establish itself on the general line Lihons- 
Framerville-Mericourt-sur-Somme, while the III Corps was to secure the 
Etinehem spur and the high ground north of it, joining up with the 
original front line at Dcrnancourt, and forming a strong defensive flank to 
the army. When the III Corps reached its objective, the Australian 
Corps was to swing forward to the general line Lihons-ChuignoUcs. A 
study of the map will show that the main advance would thus be on 
the Canadian Corps front in a south-easterly direction. Special emphasis 
was laid in the army orders on the importance of the III Corps attaining 
their objective, and of securing the left flank of the army. The hour of the 
Canadian attack, with which the Australian Corps was to conform, was left 
to the discretion of the Canadian Corps Commander, while north of the 
Somme the III Corps Commander was authorised to fix the time for 
launching his own attack. The Cavalry Corps was ordered to operate 
on the right of the army front so as to assist the Canadian Corps in gaining 
its objectives and to facilitate the advance of the First French Army. 

' In this attack prisoners were taken from seven German divisions, of which the 1-ith Bavarian 
Division, which also lost severely to the Canadians, suffered the heaviest casualties. 



CHAPTER IV 

THE BATTLE OF AMIENS (continued), AUGUST 9TH— llTH, 
AND THE EVENTS OF AUGUST 12TH — 21ST 

Maps 1, 2, 3, and 4 

August 9th ; the Canadian Corps — The capture of Le Quesnel — The action of the 2nd and 1st 
Cavalry Divisions — The advance of the 3rd, 1st, and 2nd Canadian Divisions — The Australian 
Corps — The III Corps operations — Tlic attack on the Chipilly spur — The situation on the 
night of August 9tli — The re-allotment of front between the Australian and III Corps — 
The orders for August 10th — August 10th ; the Canadian Corps ; the Chilly and Le Qucsnoy 
operations — The Australian Corps ; the advance on Lihons — The attacks astride the Somme 
by the 3rd and 4th Australian Divisions and the 131st American Regiment- — The complete 
occupation of the Amiens outer defences by the III Corps — The orders for August 11th — 
August 11th ; the Canadian Corps — Heavy hostile counter-attacks — The Australian Corps ; 
the capture of Lihons — The general situation on August 11th ; the Army Commander's 
conference — A lull in the battle — Events from August 12th-16th — August 17th ; instructions 
from General Headquarters — The progress of the First French Army, August llth-20th — 
The reorganisation of the front of the Fourth Army — The German dilemma — The results of 
the Battle of Amiens. 

It was originally intended that the general advance on the front of 
the Canadian Corps should begin at 10 a.m. on August 9th. The 3rd, 
1st, and 2nd Canadian Divisions were to attack, 
°^"^dian Corpus *°*" ^^^^ ^^'^ Division passing through the 4th Division 
after the latter had captured Le Quesnel. Owing, 
however, to the difficulties of communication and other causes, the 
general forward movement did not begin till 11 a.m., and in the case 
of some brigades not till 1 p.m. As a result, the fighting was of a very- 
disjointed nature throughout the day, the attacks of the various divisions 
and brigades starting at different times. Some of the attacks were 
covered by artillery or supported by tanks ; others were carried out by 
infantry without the support of the other arms, but, whatever the circum- 
stances, the troops engaged carried out their tasks with great determination, 
in spite of the fatigue consequent on the exertions of the previous day. 

^Mien the Cavalry and Canadian Corps began their advance, the 
enemy's defence was very uneven in character. For instance, in Rosieres- 
en-Santerre and Vrely the defence was very determined until the afternoon, 
while other villages were secured with little or no fighting by the cavalry, 
which started ahead of the infantry. During the day the enemy, who 
was very disorganised, attempted to fill the gaps in his line by bringing up 
reinforcements by 'bus and lorry, but there were few, if any, serious 
attempts at a counter-attack. 

52 




CTs 

H 
en 

O 

< 

o 



o 



o 
a 

X 
H 

O 

z 

o 
►J 

< 

o 
p 
< 
o 

H 
Z 

O 

z 



PS 

a; 
o 

J 

Q 
w 

X 

o 
s 

a: 



z 
< 



z 
< 



August &rH] THE BATTLE OF AMIENS 53 

It will be remembered that the cavalry and the 4th Canadian Division 

had met with determined resistance in Le Quesnel on the previous evening, 

and that Sir Arthur Currie had decided to postpone 

"^^ QuSnei"' ^' the capture of the village until the early hours of 
August 9th. During the night the village was heavily 
bombarded, and at 4.20 a.m. the 75th Battahon of the 11th Canadian 
Brigade attacked under cover of an artillery barrage. Almost at once 
the battalion came under heavy rifle and machine-gun fire from the \-illage 
and from the high ground to the south of it, and the advance of the leading 
troops sustained a temporary check from the fire of a strong nest of 
machine-guns situated at the western entrance to the village. This 
resistance was overcome by the prompt initiative of the commanding 
officer, who himself led a detachment against the machine-guns and 
succeeded in killing the machine-gunners and capturing all the guns. 
As a result of this gallant action, the enemy's resistance weakened sufii- 
ciently to enable the whole battalion to advance and capture the \allage.^ 
In order to secure the whole objective, our men had to advance beyond 
Le Quesnel, and several parties of the enemy were encountered in the wood 
south-east of the village.^ By 11 a.m. all resistance was overcome by 
the infantry, assisted by the fire of the trench mortars of the Canadian 
Independent Force. 

Pushing forward in advance of the infantry, the 2nd Cavalry Di\'ision 
captured Folies, but was checked by machine-gun fire in the wood west 

The action of the 2nd of Beaufort, and was not able to advance until the 
and 1st Cavalry village was Captured by the 1st Canadian Division in 
Divisions ^jjg afternoon. The 2nd Cavalry Division then, working 

roimd Warvillers and Vrely which were left to the infantry to deal with, 
pushed on towards Meharicourt, and by dusk had reached the western 
outskirts of Maucourt. Further north the 1st Cavalry Division almost 
immediately encountered formidable opposition from the newly-arrived 
119th Division north-west of Rosieres-en-Santerre, and made no progress. 
It suffered hea\'y casualties in the several gallant attempts made to 
advance, both from machine-gun fire from near the railway north of the 
village, and from artillery which was very active in this neighbourhood. 
All attempts to advance north of Yrely were unsuccessful until that 
village was captured by the 2nd Canadian Division. At nightfall the 
1st and 2nd Cavalry Divisions were relieved by the infantry of the Canadian 
Corps and withdrawn to the vicinity of Cayeux for the night. 

The Canadian Independent Force, working in close touch with the 
2nd Cavalry Division, the infantry of the 3rd Canadian Division, and with 

The advance of the 3rd, the French, was fighting along the Amiens-Roye road 

1st, and 2nd Canadian vcrv Successfully all day. It passed the night between 
Divisions Arvillers and Bouchoir. 

Advancing at noon, the 8th Canadian Brigade of the 3rd Di^'ision 
reached Folies at 4.20 p.m. After having co-operated with the French 

1 Le Quesnel had on August 8th contained a German divisional headquarters, and, although 
the staff had escaped, much valuable material was secured. 

^ From the examination of prisoners captured in this action, it was found that the leading 
troops of the 1st Reserve and 82nd Reserve Divisions had arrived on the battlefield, which 
accounted for the increasing opposition met with in this sector. 



54 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY [August 9th 

in their attack on Arvillers, the brigade advanced against Bouchoir, which 
it captured after heavy fighting, and estabhshed an outpost Hne for the 
night east of the village. It was then in touch with the French east of 
Arvillers, and was supported by the 7th Brigade which had moved up close 
behind it. 

Further north, starting at about 1 p.m., the 1st Canadian Division 
had captured Beaufort by 3.30 p.m., and, after some severe fighting, 
occupied the villages of Warvillers and Rouvroy-en-Santerre before dusk.^ 
It established outposts east of Rouvroy-en-Santerre in touch with the 
3rd Canadian Division to the south, and with the 2nd Canadian Division 
to the north near Mcharicourt. 

When they began their advance about 11 a.m. on the left of the 
Canadian Corps, both the 6th and 5th Brigades of the 2nd Canadian 
Division were unsupported on either flank, and met with strong opposition. 
This weakened appreciably as the advance of the 1st Canadian Division 
to the south, and that of the 5th Australian Division to the north, devel- 
oped. The 2nd Division then pressed on and, largely owing to the 
bravery and initiative of Lieut. John Brilliant of the 22nd Canadian 
Battalion,^ captured Vrely. Rosieres-en-Santerre was also secured, and 
!Meharicourt fell to a combined attack of the infantry and the 9th 
Cavalr}^ Brigade. 

The 6th Brigade, which had suffered heavy casualties, was now rein- 
forced by a battalion of the 4th Brigade, and the advance continued. 
By 9 p.m. the 2nd Canadian Division had established an outpost line 500 
yards east of Meharicourt and 1,000 yards east of Rosieres-en-Santerre, 
in touch with the 1st Canadian Division at Meharicourt, and on the 
north with the 1st Australian Division on the railway. 

As the result of the day's fighting the Canadian Corps had made 
another deep advance all along their front and had captured eight more 
villages, together with many prisoners. 

The task allotted to the Australian Corps was to advance its line 

between the Amiens-Chaulnes railway and the Amiens-Brie road, and, 

refusing its left, to protect the flank of the advance 

The AustraUan Corps of the Canadian Corps. It was originally intended 

that the 1st Australian Division should pass through 

the right brigade, and the 2nd Australian Division through the 

left brigade, of the 5th Australian Division which was holding the 

line on a two-brigade front. Owing, however, to its late arrival 

on the battlefield on August 8th and the long approach march 

which followed, the 1st AustraUan Division was unable to reach its 

assembly position in time to co-operate with the advance of the Canadian 

Corps. Consequently, the 5th Australian Division was ordered to 

continue the advance, assisted by seven tanks of the 8th Mark V Tank 

Battalion. This division captvired Vauvillers by 1 p.m. without the 

assistance of an artillery barrage. 

1 It was in this fighting that Sergeant Zengel, 3th Battalion Saskatchewan Regiment, and 
Corporal Coppins and Private Alexander Brereton, 8th Battalion (90th Rifles), Manitoba Regi- 
ment, showed such splendid gallantry and initiative. See Appendix E, Nos. 50, 12, and 6. 

* See Appendix E, No. 7. 




'/5 
2 



Z 



z 

< 
S 



z 

< 




o 
o 






August 9thJ THE BATTLE OF AMIENS 55 

At 1.40 p.m. the 2nd Brigade of the 1st AustraHan Division, passing 
through the 5th AustraHan Division, reached its starting position, and 
carried on the advance towards Lihons, supported by fourteen tanks of 
the 2nd Mark V Tank Battalion. The 7th and 8th Battahons, which led 
the advance, immediately encountered heavy machine-gun fire from the left 
flank, which was much exposed owing to the postponement of the attack 
of the 2nd Australian Division to a later hour. Considerable opposition 
was also encountered on the other flank from isolated machine-guns north 
of Rosieres-en-Santerre, and it was found necessary to divert two companies 
to attack them.^ Later in the afternoon the enemy was found to be 
holding in strength some trenches on the western slopes of Lihons Hill,^ 
where he had posted a number of machine-guns and supported them with 
field guns placed in forward positions. The direct fire of these field 
guns across the open played havoc with the tanks, which were in conse- 
quence unable to give the requisite support to the infantry. The 
battalions in the front line were then reinforced, and a footing on the 
western slope of the hill was secured. The consolidation of the line 
gained was begun, and covering patrols pushed out during the evening 
and night to cover working parties. Some of these patrols advanced 
beyond Crepey Wood and occupied a portion of the trench system running 
through the western outskirts of Lihons. ^ 

In the meantime, the 2nd Australian Division had advanced through 
the left brigade of the 5th Australian Division, and at 4.30 p.m. attacked 
Framerville with two brigades, the 7th Brigade on the right and the 5th 
Brigade on the left. The enemy's machine-guns in the outskirts of the 
village contested the advance, but their opposition was eventually over- 
come by the determination of the Australians, who succeeded in occupying 
the village and captured over 300 prisoners. 

During the course of the day's fighting the Australian Corps secured 
500 prisoners. Large numbers of the enemy were also kiUed, particularly 
by the troops of the 1st Australian Division, who themselves suffered 
fairly heaw casualties. 

During the night of August 8th the situation on the front of the 

III Corps remained unchanged, except on the right, where the advanced 

parties of the 58th Division were withdrawn to the 

operatioM^^ eastern edge of Malard Wood. The three divisions of 

the III Corps, which had been engaged in the hea^y 

fighting of the 8th, were not considered sufficiently strong to gain the 

objective without further assistance. Sanction was therefore obtained 

for the employment of the 131st Regiment of the 33rd American Division, 

which it had not been intended to employ in offensive operations, and 

which was in biUets near Heilly on the Ancre, some distance behind the 

I The heroism of Private Robert Beatham, 8lh Australian Battalion, greatly facilitated the 
advance of his battalion. See Appendix E, No. 4. 

* Lihons Hill, which was intersected with trenches, the remains of the old French defensive 
system of 191C, was a position of great natural strength of which the village of Lilions, situated 
on its summit, was the key. The ground rises in a gradual slope to this point from all sides for a 
considerable distance, while the surrounding country is particularly open, and the whole position 
is admirably adapted for defence. 

' The ist Australian Brigade rejoined its division during the day, and was held in divisional 
reserve 



56 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY [August 9th 

battlefield. It had been originally intended to resume operations on the 
III Corps front early in the morning of August 9th, but, on account of the 
impossibility of moving up the American troops in time, " zero " was 
postponed until 5.30 p.m. The Etinehem spur was excluded from the 
objectives for the day. 

For the main operation against Gressaire Wood, Tallies Wood, and the 
Amiens outer defence line extending from Tallies Wood northwards to 
Dernancourt, the 131st American Regiment, the 175th Brigade 
(less the 2/lOth London) of the 58th Division, reinforced by the 
8th London and 5th Royal Berkshire from the 174th and 36th 
Brigades respectively, and the 37th Brigade of the 12th Division were 
employed from right to left. Twelve tanks of the 10th Mark V Tank 
Battalion were allotted to the 58th Division, and eight tanks to the 12th 
Division. The Americans were placed under the orders of the commander 
of the 58th Division. In conjunction with this attack, the 174th Brigade, 
less one battahon, the 173rd Brigade, and the 2/lOth London of the 175th 
Brigade were to attack Chipilly and the Chipilly spur, and thereby 
protect the right flank of the Americans and clear the left flank of the 
Australians. 

The advance of the 174th and 173rd Brigades was strongly opposed 
by the enemy, and as a result the right American battalion suffered heavy 
casualties from hostile fire on its right flank. The 
'"^''cwpmy'spur*''^ brigades reached the sunken road running north from 
Chipilly, but were unable to make any further progress 
in face of the hostile enfilade machine-gun fire from the terraces north of 
Chipilly. However, the 2 /10th London succeeded in working its way 
through Chipilly and along its northern edge, and attacked the enemy 
machine-gun posts on the terraces in flank and rear. The battalion was 
then held up for a time by machine-gun fire from the valley north-west of 
the Chipilly spur, but a company of Americans went to its assistance, 
and helped to drive the enemy out of the valley. The enveloping move- 
ment was eventually successful, and the enemy was driven from the 
terraces. This success brought about the capture of the whole of the 
Chipilly spur. 

The main attack against Gressaire Wood, Tallies Wood, and the 
Amiens outer defences, in a north-easterly direction was launched on a 
front of about 7,000 yards, and was completely successful. Although the 
Americans had to double for the last mile in order to reach their assembly 
positions in time, they advanced to the attack in fine style. Led by their 
commander, Colonel J. B. Samborn, the Americans swept everything before 
them, and the German resistance collapsed. So precipitate was the retreat 
of the enemy that a German battalion commander fled from his dug-out, 
abandoning his orders, maps, and telephone switchboard. The Americans 
were so impetuous that they outstripped the British on the left, and it 
was due to them that the objective was so quickly and rapidly gained 
on the front of the 58th Division. 

On the left of the 58th Division the 12th Division had been stoutly 
opposed near Morlancourt by heavy machine-gun fire, but the devoted 
heroism of Sergeant Thomas Harris of the 6th Royal West Kent, who 




c 



O 




X 

5 









w 
w 
z 

o 
z 
w 



< 






August 9th] THE BATTLE OF AMIENS 57 

was killed while rushing hostile machine-gun posts, prevented the advance 
from being checked.^ Ultimately, after obstinate fighting, the division 
secured all objectives, except that part of the Amiens outer defences which 
lies south-west of Hill 105. 

The result of the day's fighting was another big advance on the 

whole army front, extending to as much as 9,000 yards in the south. The 

line we had now reached ran approximately Bouchoir- 

The situation on the Rouvrov-en-Santcrrc - Meharicourt - Framerville - Meri- 

nigUt 01 AnglUt Sen •' , -i • ^ r-^ ■ tit ^ m -n 

court-sur-Somme (exclusive) - Gressaire Wood- laiiles 
Wood-Demancourt. On the right of the Fourth Army the First French 
Army had also made progress and reached the general hne Pierrepont- 
Arvillers. 

Large additions had been made to the tale of prisoners, guns, and 
material, and, although the enemy's resistance was felt to be stiffening, 
no counter-attack in any strength had so far materialised. Troops from six 
more hostile divisions had been encountered, the 1st Reserve, 82nd Reserve,. 
107th, 119th, 233rd, and 243rd, making a total of seventeen German divisions 
engaged by our twelve divisions in the two days' fighting. No information 
had yet been obtained from prisoners or from other sources as to any line 
of defence which the enemy proposed to occupy, or even whether such a 
line was to be east or west of the Somme. On the other hand our casual- 
ties, except in a few cases, had not been severe, and, with the exception 
perhaps of two of the divisions of the III Corps, all the divisions in the 
army were fit to continue the operations. In addition, the 32nd Division, 
which had been released from general reserve and allotted to the Canadian 
Corps, had so far not been employed. During the evening orders were 
issued by Sir Henry Rawlinson to the Cavalry, Canadian, Australian, and 
III Corps to continue the advance towards the general line Roye-Chaulnes- 
Bray-siu--Somme-Dernancourt. It was still felt that, if the determined 
pressure exerted on August 8th and 9th was continued, the enemy's 
resistance might be definitely broken down. The chief difficulty with 
which we had to contend was the very broken ground which had now been 
reached. It was most unsuitable for the employment of tanks and 
cavalry, and favoured enormously the enemy's delaying tactics and his 
lavish use of machine-guns in the defence. 

Notwithstanding the successful advance of the III Corps on August 
9th, the junction between it and the Australian Corps south of the river 
The reaiiotment of front '^^^ not satisfactory. While the Somme itself afforded 
between the Australian a well-defined line of demarcation, it was found that 
and m Corps ^}^g tactical interdependence of the slopes on each side 

of the river made it an unsatisfactory boundary. Sir Henry Rawlinson 
therefore decided to place the Australian Corps astride the Somme and 
to make the Corbie-Bray-sur-Somme road the inter-corps boundary. 
Instructions to this effect were accordingly issued, and the 131st 
American Regiment was transferred from the III to the Australian 
Corps. 

The same objectives were given to the three corps for August 10th 
as had been given them for the previous day, that is to say, the 

* See Appendix E, No. 22. 

I 



58 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY [August ioth 

approximate line Roye - Chaulnes - Bray-sur-Somme - Dcrnancourt, the 

objective for the AustraUans, however, was extended to include 

the Etinehem spur. The 3rd Cavalry Division was 

^Aug^fioth" detailed to work with the Canadian Corps, the 1st and 

2nd Cavalry Divisions being held in reserve. 
During the night of August 9th, the 32nd Division, under the command 
of Maj.-Gen. T. S. Lambert, moved up in close support of the 3rd Canadian 
August loth; the Canadian Division, ready to pass through on the right. At 
Corps ; the ChUiy and 4.20 a.m. the 8th Canadian Brigade, assisted by four 
Le Quesnoy operations tanks, advanced on Le Quesnoy-en-Santerre, and, after 
encountering heavy machine-gun fire which was overcome with the assist- 
ance of the tanks, captured the village and established a line on its eastern 
edge. Thence the advance continued, and the trench area north-east of 
the village was occupied by 9.30 a.m. Soon afterwards the troops of the 
32nd Division, who had followed close on the heels of the Canadians, 
passed through them, and, in spite of strong opposition and the very 
difficult nature of the ground, advanced our line to the western outskirts 
of Damery and Parvillers. On the right of the 32nd Division the Canadian 
Cavalry Brigade endeavoured to push forward Avith the object of securing 
the high ground north and east of Roye, while a brigade of the 2nd Cavalry 
Division moved in the direction of Nesle.^ Owing to the hostile machine- 
gun fire and the difficulties of the ground, which was intersected by old 
trenches and belts of wire hidden by the long grass, cavalry action was found 
to be impossible. At nightfall, therefore, the whole Cavalry Corps was 
withdrawn into reserve to localities in the valley of the Luce, where water 
was more plentiful. 

On the left of the 32nd Division, the 4th Canadian Division passed 
through the 1st and 2nd Canadian Divisions and attacked at 10.15 a.m., 
the hour of assault having been postponed to alloAV the tanks, of which 
nineteen were eventually mustered, time to get into position. The village 
of Fouquescourt was allotted as objective to the 10th Brigade, while 
Chilly was the objective of the 12th Brigade. Unfortunately, owing to the 
hostile artillery fire, very few tanks were able to cross the Rouvroy-en-San- 
terre-Meharicoui-t road, many being destroyed by direct hits, and of those 
that escaped this fate the greater part were " ditched " in the intricate ground. 
While the tanks were suffering so severely in their self-sacrificing efforts 
to assist the infantry, the situation from the standpoint of the assaulting 
troops was the reverse of satisfactory. Confronted with a more determined 
and organised resistance, they were obliged to attack in the open over 
level fields with comparatively little artillery support and without assist- 
ance from the tanks. It was only after very severe fighting, in which 
all ranks displayed the greatest gallantry and determination, that the 
enemy's resistance was overcome and a footing established in Maucourt 
and on the high ground south of Fouquescourt. At a later stage of the 
fighting three tanks arrived at Fouquescourt and rendered valuable 
assistance in the capture of the village, which was completely in the 

1 The 1st and 2nd Cavalry Divisions had been ordered forward from reserve, as very optimistic 
reports were received during tlie morning as to the demoralisation and retirement of the enemy. 
These reports proved to be exaggerated. 



A'o. 29. 



'To face page 5S. 




MARK V TANKS ADVANCING ACROSS THE OPEN NEAR LE QUESNOY. 

liy kind permission of the Canadian Governmeut. 



Xo. 30. 




^■=^"S^ 



^^m^m^t^^^ 






CANADIAN CA\AI.R>- R I- .■> 1 1 N . , ON \ L i . L M lOIH. 
Hy kind permission of ihe Canadian Gorernmenl. 




o 
o 






Q 

< 

w 

Oh 
W 



J*. 




o 



o 
< 

o 

< 
< 

0! 
H 
c« 

< 

w 

h 



Q 

W 

H 



Z 
o 



< 
a 
z 

X 

o 
z 

w 
« 



August 10th] THE BATTLE OF AMIENS 59 

hands of the 44th Canadian Battalion of the 10th Brigade by 5 p.m. The 
50th Battalion on the left of the 10th Brigade then pushed on and reached 
the railway south-west of Hallu, but the enemy still held out east of 
Fouquescourt. 

On the front of the 12th Brigade desperate fighting took place in 
Chilly about noon, but by 12.30 p.m. the 72nd Battalion had cleared the 
village. The 78th Battalion then passed through and, taking advantage 
of the enemy's temporary demoralisation, captured Hallu without much 
opposition. Further north the attacking troops of the 85th Battalion 
found great difficulty in advancing on account of heavy machine-gun fire 
from Lihons, which at that time had not been captured by the Australians. 
Finally, however, the 85th and 38th Battalions cleared the country as 
far as the Chilly-Lihons road. 

Open warfare tactics were impossible owing to the way in which the 
ground was broken up by the old trench system, of which the enemy took 
the fullest advantage. There was, therefore, an enforced and very 
unwelcome reversion to trench warfare, involving slower progress and 
more numerous casualties. At 3.30 p.m. the 119th German Division ^ began 
to develop a counter-attack from the north-east against the exposed flank 
of the 78th Battalion which had pushed forward to Hallu. The attack 
was brought to a standstill within fifteen yards of our trenches. Regard- 
less, however, of the heavy losses sustained in this counter-attack, the 
enemy made a further attempt at 7.30 p.m. For the second time he was 
beaten off, leaving many dead in front of our trenches, the result of well- 
controlled and effective rifle and Lewis gun fire, in which the battalion 
headquarters took a by no means unimportant part. 

On the left of the Canadian Corps the 1st Australian Division, with 

the 2nd Brigade on the right and the 3rd Brigade on the left, renewed 

the advance at 8 a.m., at which hour it was originally 

the\^raS''o'L?ii!ons intended that the Canadians should also attack. The 

1st Brigade was in reserve. The objectives of the 

division included Crepey and Auger Woods. 

The advance was only covered by a thin artillery barrage, and the 
right flank of the advance was exposed, with the result that severe fighting 
took place before the Australians reached a line running roughly north and 
south through the eastern end of Crepey Wood. The wood itself was still 
held in force by the enemy, and formed a pocket in our line. It was 
eventually captured by a company of the 10th Battalion after very bitter 
fighting. All the defenders were either killed or captured, and posts were 
established on the eastern edge ; the company of the 10th Battalion, 
when it had completed its task, was reduced to twenty of all ranks. 

During the afternoon two determined counter-attacks were made 
on the left of the 1st Australian Division. The first was driven off with 
heavy loss to the enemy ; the second succeeded, after some of our posts 
east of Crepey Wood had been totally destroyed by artillery fire, in gaining 
a footing in the wood itself. Our troops on the flanks of the hostile attack 
closed in, and thus isolated the Germans who had penetrated into the 
wood ; these refused to surrender and fought to the last man. Once more 

1 This division arrived to reinforce the Second German Army on August 9th. 



60 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY [August ioth 

there was a bitter struggle in the wood from which the Austrahans emerged 
triumphant, over 90 of the enemy's dead being counted after the fight 
was over. In the evening it was decided to consohdate the position 
gained, with a view to making adequate preparations for the renewal of 
the attack next day. 

During daylight on August 10th the remainder of the Australian 
line south of the Somme remained almost unchanged, except for a small 
advance on the right of the 2nd Australian Division north of Crepey Wood ; 
during the night of the 10th, however, considerable progress was made 
about Etinehem. 

The command of the right divisional front of the III Corps between 

the Bray-sui'-Somme-Corbie road and the Somme passed to the Austrahan 

Corps at 10 a.m. on August 10th. Early in the evening 

the^Somme'^by^the^Ld ^^ ^^^^ same day the 3rd Australian Division relieved 

and 4th Australian Divi- the portion of the front held by the 4th Australian 

sions and the 131st Division south of the Somme. Thus, on the night of 

American Regiment j^^^^^^^ -^^q^^ ^^le Australian Corps front was held, from 

right to left, by the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Divisions south of the Somme, and 

by the 4th Division, to which the 131st American Regiment was attached, 

north of the river. 

The village of Etinehem itself was of no tactical importance, being 
tucked away in a small re-entrant on the northern bank of the Somme. 
North-west of the village the ground rose steeply towards Tallies Wood, 
while to the north the re-entrant, in which the village itself lay, developed 
into a crescent-shaped valley with gentle slopes in the vicinity of the 
Bray-sur-Somme-Corbie road. On the east Etinehem was dominated by 
the high ground which rises steeply from the river to the bluff overlooking 
Bray-sur-Somme. In many ways the Etinehem spur resembled that east 
of Chipilly, and, as regards observation of the Somme valley, constituted 
an important tactical feature which it was most necessary to secure 
prior to any advance south of the river. In conjunction with the operation 
for the capture of Etinehem, it was decided to encircle Mericourt-sur- 
Somme, clear up the ground formed by the bend in the river between 
]Mericourt-sur-Somme and Etinehem, and gain the ridge east of Proyart. 
North of the Somme the attack was carried out by the 13th Brigade, 
which had rejoined the 4th Australian Division, and the 131st American 
Regiment, and, south of the river, by the 9th and 10th Brigades of the 
3rd Australian Division. The tactics employed both north and south of 
the river were almost entirely identical, a silent encircling movement 
imder cover of darkness. 

On the 13th Brigade front the 50th and 49th Battalions, supported 
by tanks, advanced at 10 p.m. in an easterly direction along the Corbie- 
Bray- sur- Somme road and the river road to the south, one battalion 
moving along each road. The southern battalion, the 50th, encircled 
Etinehem, M'hich it captured and " mopped up." The northern battalion, 
the 49th, attacked down the Etinehem spur, secured almost the whole of 
it, and on the left formed a defensive flank along the Bray-sur-Somme- 
Corbie road as far as the junction with the III Corps at the cross roads 
about 500 yards east of Tailles Wood. 




CO 



S 
o 



Q 



z 




a: 






o 



a 
z 









August iiTH] THE BATTLE OF ATHENS 61 

South of the Somme Mericourt-sxir-Somme was occupied with sUght 
opposition, but further south the operation was not so successful. The 
10th Brigade, which was to carry out the first part of the operation, 
advanced along the main Amiens-Brie road early in the evening, supported 
by tanks. Its object was to encircle Proyart from the south, and thus 
establish itself on the high ground east of the village. Unfortunately the 
enemy discovered this movement and, by heavy shelling of the forward 
area and some effective bombing, caused considerable confusion and heavy 
casualties ; as a result the operation had finally to be abandoned. 

On the front of the III Corps a hostile counter-attack, at about 3 a.m. 

on August 10th, resulted in a temporary withdrawal of our line at the 

, . „„ junction of the 58th and 12th Divisions east of Tallies 
The complete occnpa- 4x' j u *. 4-u j i j. ^i • j 

tion of the Amiens >» ood, but the ground lost was promptly regamed. 

outer defences by the Strong patrols from the 58th and 12th Divisions 
m Corps advanced during the morning and were closely 

supported by strong detachments. By 10 p.m. the whole of the 
Amiens outer defences had been secured from the Bray-sur-Somme- 
Corbie road to Dernancourt. The new line was consolidated during the 
night and thereafter held in its entirety. 

On the evening of August 10th orders were issued by Sir Henry 

Rawlinson, acting on instructions from General Headquarters, for the 

attack to be continued on the 11th with the object 

Augnlt^lith' °^ pressing the enemy back on to the Somme, and 

securing the crossings between Offoy, about four miles 

east of Nesle, and Bray-siu--Somme. The left of the First French Army 

was at the same time directed on Ham. The objective allotted to the 

Canadian Corps was the river line between Offoy and St. Christ ; and 

that allotted to the Australian Corps the line of the river from 

St. Christ to Bray-sur-Somme. The bulk of the cavalry was ordered 

to assist the Canadian Corps, while one brigade was attached to the 

Australian Corps. The III Corps was ordered to maintain a defensive 

flank on the north on the line of the Amiens outer defences. 

The enemy's counter-attacks during the'llth, and the severe fighting 
which ensued, proved that the hostile resistance was stiffening and 
prevented any progress being made. Owing to the 
cTadian Corps increase of hostile artillery fire, the difficult nature of 
the ground, and the lack of tanks and sufficient 
artillery support, the Canadian attacks were cancelled by Sir Arthur 
Currie early on the 11th, after consultation with Army Head- 
quarters. The attack of the 32nd Division, however, against Damery 
and Parvillers was launched at 9.30 a.m., before the cancelling order 
reached the troops. It was checked by strong machine-gun fire and heavy 
wire, and at 11 a.m. orders not to press the attack were received. 

About 12 noon, after a heavy bombardment, the enemy launched 

determined counter-attacks against Chillv and between Damery and 

Heavy hostile counter- fo^q^^SCOUrt In the Vicinity of Hallu OUT /troops 

attacks ^^^^^ seen withdrawmg from the village, and the situation 

for a time was obscure. It subsequently transpired 

that the enemy had concentrated in Hallu Woods and had attempted to 



62 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY [August iith 

work round the flanks. The 50th Battalion, in view of the enemy's con- 
centration, threw back its left flank and the hostile attack was thus 
anticipated. When, therefore, the Germans advanced in mass formation, 
they afforded an exceptionally good target for the 50th Battalion and the 
78th Battalion on its left. The attack was completely repulsed by 
the combined fire of all available guns, machine-guns, and rifles, and the 
enemy suffered very heavy casualties, the ground in front of our trenches 
being strewn with the German dead. 

Later in the evening our advanced troops in the vicinity of Hallu 
were withdrawn to the main line in front of Chilly, in order to avoid un- 
necessary casualties. Meanwhile, the enemy's attack south of Fouques- 
court met with partial success, but an immediate counter-attack by the 
32nd Division succeeded not only in restoring the situation, but in 
advancing the line to the western outskirts of Damery. Throughout 
the remainder of the afternoon, the enemy's attacks in the area east of 
Le Quesnoy-en-Santerre continued with unabated vigour. Although 
supported by intense concentrations of artillery fire, they were all beaten 
off, and our line remained intact. \Vhile the losses sustained by the 
enemy in these attempts to arrest the victorious advance of the 
Canadian Corps were very severe, especially in the 79th Reserve and 
119th Divisions, those sustained by the Canadian Corps were by no 
means light, and it became necessary to relieve the 32nd and the 4th 
Canadian Divisions. On the night of August 12th, therefore, the 32nd 
Division, holding the Damery-Parvillers sector, was relieved by the 3rd 
Canadian Division, and the 4th Canadian Division by the 2nd Canadian 
Division on the Chilly front. 

After the heavy fighting of August 10th Maj.-Gen. T. W. Glasgow, 

commanding the 1st Australian Division, realised that the period of 

semi-open fighting had temporarilv passed. He also 

^hefaito^SnV ^aw that on the old Somme battlefield, covered with its 

complicated systems of trenches, a definitely organised 

attack would be necessary in order to capture the important tactical 

locality of Lihons Hill, to retain which the enemy would be certain to 

employ all his available resources. He decided to cover the advance of 

the infantry with a creeping barrage moving at the rate of 100 yards in 

three minutes, and to employ such tanks as were available to lead the 

attack, the infantry following immediately in rear of them. 

At 4 a.m., the hour fixed for the attack, it was foggy and dark, but 
the conditions were otherwise favourable. O^ving to the fog, only one 
tank was able to reach its position by " zero " ; the remainder lost direction 
in the intricate ground, although the majority of them succeeded in 
catching up the infantry later in the morning. The attack, which was 
undertaken by the 2nd and 3rd Brigades, Avith the 1st Brigade in reserve, 
was at once met by very heavj' machine-gun fire, which luckily, owing 
probably to the fog and darkness, was very ^vild and entirely failed to 
check the Australians. By 5.15 a.m. Lihons and Auger Wood had been 
captured, and our troops were well down the east side of the hill. 

The tactical value of the position had not been over-estimated, and 
the 1st AustraUan Division was now in possession of a commanding 




■f. 
z 



August 11th] THE BATTLE OF A:\IIEXS 63 

ridge, from which a fine view was obtainable over the enemy's positions 
to the north, south, and east. 

The Germans promptly attempted to recover the lost ground, and 
at 6 a.m., employing the 5th Bavarian Division and the newly-arrived 
38th Division, began a series of powerful counter-attacks against the 
1st Australian Division. At 8.30 a.m. one of these counter-attacks broke 
the line, and parties of the enemy, working do^^Tl behind our position on 
the hill towards Crepey Wood, for a time made our hold on the hill pre- 
carious ; the Australians, however, fought with the greatest tenacity and 
succeeded in beating off all attacks with heavy loss to the Bavarians. 
By the evening our hold on the whole position was firmly established, and 
a dashing and hard-fought operation of great tactical importance was 
brought to a successful conclusion. The 2nd Australian Division also 
made considerable progress. It captured Rainecourt and advanced its 
line to near Herleville, keeping touch with the 1st Australian Division 
north of Lihons. 

At 3 p.m. on August 11th Sir Henry Rawlinson held a conference of 
Corps Commanders at Villers Bretonneux, and discussed the general 
The general situation on situation. From all the reports which had been received 
August 11th ; the Army it was quite evident that the enemy's resistance had 
Commander's conference stiffened, and that he had been able to bring up fresh 
troops and to reinforce his shattered artillery. In addition, he was holding 
the western edge of a broad belt of country admirably suited for defence, 
which was difficult for the infantry to advance over, and practically 
impossible for tanks or cavalry. It was now certain that the Germans 
had decided to make a stand west of the Somme, but whether this was 
only a temporary effort to cover a withdrawal across the river, or was a 
new defensive line which they were determined to hold to the last, was 
not yet clear. On the other hand, all our divisions had been 
engaged in the battle. The troops had performed wonders ; twenty-fovir 
hostile divisions had been engaged and defeated by thirteen of our divisions 
and part of one American division ; but it was realised that, in the stress 
of modern battle, with its never-relaxing strain on nerves and sinews, 
there are limits to human endurance. For many days the infantry, 
machine-gunners, and artillery had been continually on the move, and 
most of the units had been in action several times. The tanks had 
been fully employed since the battle began on August 8th, and the 
constant strain of continued action, especially on August 10th, when the 
majority of the tanks operating with the Canadian Corps were constantly 
under heavy artillery fire, had begun to tell on the crews. The tanks 
themselves, too, had suffered considerable wear and tear, and required 
overhauling and refitting before they could be used again. Our casual- 
ties certainly had so far been light— as compared with the number of 
prisoners taken and the losses inflicted on the enemy ; we had 
achieved the maximum of result with the minimum of loss, but the 
situation as regards the supply of reinforcements did not permit 
of risks being taken. It had, moreover, not been possible up to 
date to bring up all the heavy artillery, and to supply it with am- 
munition. In addition to these considerations, previous experience had 



64 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY [August 12th 

shown that, once the first impetus of an offensive was over and the enemy 
had been able to reorganise his defences, infantry attacks, even with the 
co-operation of tanks, became more and more costly. This was chiefly 
because it was difficult to avoid making them more or less disjoin tedly 
and on narrower fronts, and also because the available artillery support 
was bound to be considerably less than in the initial attack. Experience 
had definitely showTi that, if casualties were to be avoided, it was essential 
for the infantry to attack on a wide front, well supported by artillery, and 
in the closest co-operation with the tanks. Sir Henry Rawlinson, therefore, 
decided that no attempt should be made to force the position by in- 
dependent effort on the part of formations, nor until we could bring into 
action our overwhelming strength in artillery. 

As a result of the conference, instructions were issued on August 11th 
that for the time being only minor alterations were to be made in the line, 
and that such alterations should be designed to assist 
A lull in the battle in obtaining a good "starting line " for a general attack 
which was fixed for August 15th. For the moment, 
therefore, the advance was checked. Owing to the difficulties which had 
to be surmounted in moving forward the heavy artillery, and to the time 
taken to make the necessary reliefs of divisions, this date was first post- 
poned for twenty-four hours and subsequently " sine die," but ready to 
be undertaken at twenty-four hours' notice. 

On August 12th the whole of the Cavalry Corps was withdrawn into 
reserve in the valleys of the Luce and the Avre. 

On the front of the Canadian Corps reliefs were 
^'^^^gtHeth''^' carried out, and patrols were pushed further towards 
Damery and Parvillers, but this gain of ground was not 
made without considerable hostile opposition. The fighting in places 
was very strenuous, as is proved by the fact that two Canadians, Sergeant 
Spall, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, and Private Dinesen, 
42nd Battahon, Quebec Regiment, won the Victoria Cross in the fighting 
near Parvillers. Sergeant Spall deliberately gave his life in order to 
extricate his platoon from a most difficult situation. Private Dinesen 
was the outstanding man in his company during ten hours' hand-to- 
hand fighting, which resulted in the capture of over a mile of strongly 
garrisoned trenches.^ 

The enemy's resistance, as had been anticipated, gradually increased, 
and was particularly strong on the front of the Canadian Corps,^ where 
the famous Alpine Corps had made its appearance on August 11th. Here 
the enemy carried out a number of local counter-attacks, which were 
supported by heavy concentrations of artillery fire from field and high 
velocity guns, large quantities of gas shell being employed. Undeterred 
by these attempts of the enemy to regain the initiative, the 3rd Canadian 
Division succeeded in capturing Damery and Parvillers on August 15th. 
The German artillery retaliation was exceptionally severe, and was shortly 
afterwards followed by a counter-attack delivered by the 121st Division 
and the Alpine Corps. This was successfully repvilsed, 200 prisoners and 

• See Appendix E, Nos. 40 and 16. 

* Nine fresh divisions had come in against the Canadian Corps since the 8th. 



August 12TH-17TH] THE BATTLE OF AMIENS 65 

40 machine-guns being captured, and casualties, estimated at 1,500, were 
inflicted on the enemy. 

Further north the Australian Corps materially improved and straight- 
ened the line between Lihons and the Somme by a series of local actions 
carried out by the 2nd and 5th Divisions. Numerous prisoners were 
captured, and the enemy was allowed no rest. 

On August 12th, just before it was relieved, the 3rd Australian 
Division secured Proyart. In the attack on this village Sergeant Statton, 
40th Battalion, armed only wath a revolver, rushed four of the enemy's 
machine-gun posts in succession. This had an inspiring effect on the 
troops, who cheered him as he returned, and his daring exploit enabled 
the battalion to gain its objective.^ 

North of the Somme the Liaison Force^ and the III Corps^ also 
harassed the enemy. At dawn on August 13th a successful attack was 
carried out by the 13th Australian Brigade, whereby the whole of the 
Etinehem spvu-, a part of which had been retaken by the enemy on the 
11th, M'as recaptiH-ed vnth 200 prisoners and a large nvunber of machine- 
guns. On the same day the 12th Division estabUshed a footing on 
HiU 105. 

While this continual pressure was being maintained on the enemy, 

the preparations for the general attack, which had been planned along 

August 17th ; instruc- ^^c front of the Canadian and Austrahan Corps, were 

tions from General still going forward. On August 17th,* however, in- 

Headquarters structions were received from the Commander-in-Chief 
that the attack was not to take place in view of the heavy losses which an 
attempt to capture such a strong position might involve. The Canadian 
Corps was to be withdrawn into general reserve, the First French Army 
would extend its front northwards to compensate for the withdrawal of 
the Canadians, and the 33rd American Division was to leave the Fourth 
Army in order to rejoin the American Army. 

The Commander-in-Chief had decided that the next big British 
attack should be made on a part of the line where the Germans were not 
so fully prepared, and that the Fourth Army should mark time until a 
more favourable opportunity should arise for continuing its advance. It 
was hoped that in the interval we should be able to find out whether 
the enemy meant to hold his ground west of the Somme, for which piu-pose 
he would have to reinforce that front with both men and guns, or whether 
he would retire across the river, in which case we should gain a further 
advantage without loss. If he adopted the first alternative, an attack 

' See Appendix E, No. 41. 

* On August 12th, in order to relieve the 4th Australian Di\-ision for a well-earned rest, a 
provisional formation known as the Liaison Force was formed under the command of Brig.-Gen. 
E. A. Wisdom, commanding the 7th Australian Brigade. This force took over the front from the 
Somme to the Bray-sur-Somme-Corbie road, and its task was to ensure complete liaison between 
the Australian and the III Corps. It was composed of the 13th Australian Brigade and the 
131st American Regiment, with the necessary auxiliarj- troops. This force was broken up on 
August 20th on relief by the 3rd Australian Division, and the troops composing it returned to 
their formations. 

' On August 11th the command of the III Corps had been taken over temporarily from 
Sir Richard Butler by Lieut.-Gen. Sir Alec. Godley, the commander of the XXII Corps. 

* The gist of these orders was communicated verbally to Sir Henry Rawlinson by General 
Headquarters before August 17th 



66 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARIVIY [August 17th-218t 

from the north in the direction of Bapavime, would place his troops west 
of the Somme in a very precarious position. 

The Fourth Army, meanwhile, was not to remain idle, as it was 
essential that the enemy should not realise what the next move was to 
be. He must be made to expect an attack at any moment, and every 
method of gaining ground, which could be employed without incurring 
serious losses, was to be undertaken. These instructions entailed no 
change in the army policy, and the harassing of the enemy by minor 
operations was maintained until August 21st, the day prior to the opening 
of the second phase of the battles of the hundred days. On August 21st 
our line had reached approximately Damery-La Chavatte-Fransart- 
Chilly-Lihons-Rainecourt-Proyart-Etinehem and along the Amiens outer 
defences to Dernancourt. 

During the period from August 11th to August 20th, the First French 
Army, operating south of the Amiens-Roye road on the right flank of the 
The progress of the First Canadian Corps, had made good progress and advanced 
French Army, August its line to within machinc-gun range of Roye. This 

nth— 20th advance was materially assisted by the Third French 

Army, which on August 10th attacked south of Montdidier in a north- 
easterly direction, and finally effected a junction with the First French 
Army north-cast of that town.^ The advance of the First French Army 
automatically shortened the front held by the French. This enabled 
the French High Command to withdraw from the line the Third French 
Army, which held the front between the First and Tenth French Armies. 

When the instructions came from General Headquarters on 
August 17th for the withdrawal of the Canadian Corps, it was holding 
a front extending from Damery to just south of Lihons, with two divisions 
in line and two in reserve. It was to be withdrawn as soon as possible 
and placed in general reserve ; later it was to be transferred to the First 
Army on the Arras front, where it was eventually to take part in a further 
attack. In accordance with these orders the 2nd, 3rd, 1st, and 4th 
Canadian Divisions, in the order named, were gradually withdrawn and 
concentrated in the Longueau area, being subsequently moved by rail 
to the First Army. The withdrawal of the Canadian Corps necessitated 
a considerable shortening of the front held by the Fourth Army, if it was 
to maintain its offensive attitude. It was arranged, therefore, by Sir 
Douglas Haig with Marshal Foch, that the front of the Canadian Corps 
should be taken over by the First French Army. The first half of the 
rehef, that of the 3rd Canadian Division, began on the night of August 19th 
and was completed on the morning of August 22nd. On this date the 
Canadian Corps Headquarters were withdrawn, and moved by road to 
the First Army area, while the front of the 4th Canadian Division came 
temporarily under the command of the Australian Corps Commander. The 
second phase, which involved the relief of the 4th Canadian Division, did 
not begin until August 23rd and was completed on August 27th. 

The 33rd American Division was rejoined, about August 20th, by 

' Until August 16th the First French Army was under the orders of Sir Douglas Haig, but 
at 12 noon on that date it reverted to the command of General Fayolle, commanding the Group 
of Armies of the north and north-east. 













'Ji 

w 






as 

< 



o 

t/i 
z 

< 



z 

< 



August 218T] THE BATTLE OF AMIENS 67 

the 131st and 132nd American Regiments from the Australian Corps, 
and was concentrated at Poulainville, prior to moving by rail on 
August 23rd to join the First American Army in the French zone near 
Verdun. The 33rd American Division had been training with the Fourth 
Army for several months, and the first action in which any of its troops had 
taken part had been with the 4th Austrahan Division at Hamel on 
July 4th. From its commander do^vnwards, the officers and men who 
composed it had gained the respect and admiration of all by their gallantry 
in action, their keenness, and their determination to miss nothing during 
their training that would help them to beat the Germans. 

Before further operations could be carried out by the Fourth Army, 

it was essential that as many as possible of the divisions that it was going 

The reorganisaHon of ^^ retain should be given a short period of rest in order 

the front o£ the Fourth to regain their full fighting efficiency. All the divisions 

Army pf ^j^g Australian Corps were given short periods of rest 

between August 12th and 23rd. In order to do this, the 17th Division, 

released temporarily from general reserve, was employed to hold the line 

from the Amiens-Brie road to the Somme between August 12th and 16th, 

after which it again reverted to general reserve.^ On August 17th the 

32nd Division was transferred from the Canadian to the Australian Corps. 

On the morning of August 22nd the situation on the Fourth Army 

front was as follows : — 

The Australian Corps held a frontage of 23,000 yards, extending from 
Fransart to the Bray-sur-Somme-Corbie road, with five divisions in the 
line — 4th Canadian, 4th Australian, 32nd, 5th Austrahan, and 3rd Australian 
— from south to north, and with three divisions in reserve, the 1st Canadian, 
2nd Australian, and 1st Australian. The length of front held by the 
III Corps, which extended from the Bray-sur-Somme-Corbie road to just 
north of Albert, remained unchanged. There were three divisions holding the 
line — the 47th, 12th, and 18th — ^from south to north, with the 58th Division 
in reserve.^ On this date it was estimated that the Fourth Army was 
opposed by eleven divisions, of which five, including the Alpine Corps, 
might be reckoned to possess more than the average fighting spirit. 
Apart from those divisions which the enemy had withd^a^^Tl exhausted 
from the battle, he was believed to have five divisions in reserve. 

The enemy opposite the Fourth Army was obviously in an 

extremely awkward situation. He was faced with two alternatives : 

cither to reinforce the troops west of the Somme and 

The German dUemma build up a new defensive line, taking full advantage of 

the existing trenches and wire, or to retire east of the 

Somme to his old reserve line of 1917 and make use of the river as an 

obstacle to our advance. At first it was not apparent which of these 

alternatives he would adopt. The danger he would incur by endeavovu^ing 

' During its time in the line the 17th Division did not take part in any operations, but sus- 
tained a number of casualties from hostile gas shelling, which at times was very severe. Its fighting 
efficiency was not, however, affected. 

^ The 18th Division had been withdrawn from the line on August 10th and brought round 
to relieve the 47th Division, which was holding the line opposite Albert. The latter division, 
under the command of Maj.-Gen. Sir G. F. Gorringe, had then taken over the part of the line 
held by the 58th Division on the night of August 13th and 14th. 



68 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY [August 2ist 

to make a stand with an obstacle such as the Somme behind him was 
obvious, especially in view of the further severe drain on his resources in 
men and material which such a course would entail. On the other hand, 
we had to remember that the enemy had held a similar position for four 
months in 1917, and that he must reahse that any further retirement 
was bound to have a lowering effect on his already shaken moral. Cir- 
cumstances, however, since 1917 had changed considerably, and the question 
of economising man power at this time was of even greater importance 
to the enemy than to ourselves. Faced with the heavy losses consequent 
on the failure of his spring and summer offensives, in which he had 
cherished the hope of gaining a decisive victory, he was now confronted 
with the menace of the increasing strength of the American Army. It 
became evident, therefore, that the enemy, if pressure was applied, must 
withdraw east of the river. 

Before passing to the next phase of the operations, it may be of interest 

to consider the results of the Battle of Amiens, in order to appreciate 

its influence in determining the ruthless offensive 

BLluTS^A^iens^ policy of the Allied Armies, which ultimately achieved 

one of the most decisive victories in history and the 

final defeat of Germany .^ 

From the opening of the battle on August 8th to its conclusion on 
August 11th, the Fourth Army penetrated the enemy's defences to a 
maximum depth of twelve miles, forcing the enemy back to the borders 
of the old Somme battlefield, where there existed practically no accommoda- 
tion for his reserve troops, and where the roads were exceedingly poor. 

During the period of fighting from August 8th to 21st, 23,064 prisoners 
and 400 guns of all calibres, with many hundreds of machine-guns and 
trench mortars, were captured. In addition, large ammunition dumps, 
enormous quantities of engineer material, and a considerable amount of 
rolling stock were secured. Such heavy losses in prisoners naturally 
compelled the enemy to throw in reserves.^ These he could ill afford to 
spare in view of the wide extent of the allied offensive which at this 
time extended from Rheims to Albert. 

From the identification of the German divisions, it was ascertained 
that Prince Rupprecht's reserves, numbering thirty-six divisions early in 
July and destined for a big attack in the Ypres salient, were rapidly being 
dra^Ti into the battle. On August 16th he retained only nine divisions 
in reserve available for employment between the sea and Albert.^ 

The result of the attack of August 8th also immediately influenced 
events as far south as the Oise. On August 8th the battle front lying 
between the rivers Luce and Oise was held by the First and Third French 
Armies, whose sectors lay respectively north and south of Montdidier. 
On that date the First French Army, by its advance in co-operation with 

^ As already pointed out, this story was written before General LudendorfTs Memoirs were 
published. 

* By the evening of August 21st, twenty-seven different hostile di\'isions had been engaged 
by the Fourth Army, many of which had been heavily defeated, and withdrawn to rest or disbanded. 

» Prince Rupprecht's offensive had apparently been definitely postponed about July 20th, 
and from that date his reserves had been steadily withdrawn southwards, first to the Marne front 
to meet General Mangin's offensive of July 18th, and later to the Somme to meet our attacks. 







z 

O 






O 



u 
z 

o 



1* 

■a 



THE BATTLE OF AMIENS 69 

the Canadians, threatened to cut off the retreat of the German troops in 
the Montdidier sahent. It thus facilitated the attack of the Third French 
Army, when it was launched on August 10th between Montdidier and the 
Oise. This compelled the enemy to beat a hurried retreat on a front 
extending from Chevincourt, six miles north of Compiegne, to Gratibus, 
three miles north of Montdidier, that is to say a distance of twenty-five 
miles, and to an average depth of approximately 9,000 yards. 

The moral effect of the battle of Amiens was of even greater im- 
portance. In the first place the battle demonstrated that the British forces 
had lost none of their fighting qualities, in spite of the reverses sustained 
in the enemy's March and April offensives. It proved that the British Army 
was as capable of carrying out a big offensive as it had been in 1916 and 
1917, in spite of the heavy casualties it had suffered. Before August 8th 
there were many, not only in the German Army, but among the French, and 
even in our own Army and in England, who doubted this. On the other 
hand, it showed the German High Command that the German infantry was 
no longer of the same quality as that which had resisted so determinedly 
during the five months of the Somme battle of 1916. Even the machine- 
gunners had deteriorated. A brief inspection of the prisoners streaming 
westwards sufficed to dispel any doubts that might have been entertained 
as to the condition of the enemy's moral. The physique of the men was 
fairly good, and their power of endurance still high, but many expressed 
evident pleasure at being captured and thus being relieved of the necessity 
of fighting a losing game. In several cases new arrivals were greeted 
with cheers by parties which had been captured earlier in the day. A 
more thorough examination of the prisoners showed that there was a 
prevalent conviction among both officers and men that Germany could 
not win the war.^ One reason for this was that they had realised, during 

1 Various orders issued by German General Headquarters and lower formations during this 
period are of interest, of which two examples are perhaps worth quoting : — 

Extract from an order of the Second Army, dated 25/8/18. 

It passes all comprehension that inconceivable rumours have been spread about behind the 
front during the last few days by people who have lost their nerve. People with anxious tempera- 
ments see everywhere squadrons of tanks, masses of cavalry, and dense lines of enemy infantry. 
It is in fact high time that our old battle-tried soldiers spoke seriously to these cowards and weak- 
lings, and told them of the deeds that are achieved in the front line. Tanks are no bogey for the 
front line troops, who have artillery in close support. For instance, a battery-sergeant-major 
with his gun destroyed 4 tanks ; one battery destroyed 1-1 ; and a single division in one day 40. 
In another instance, a smart corporal climbed on to a tank and put the crew out of action with 
his revolver, firing through an aperture. A lance-corporal was successful in putting a tank out 
of action with a hand grenade. 

The English cavalry, which has been engaged many times, has been shot to pieces and reduced 
to a skeleton force by our infantry and artillery. Our riflemen and machine-gunners never had 
better targets. 

With regard to the enemy's infantry, stress must again be laid on the fact that in most cases 
they have only received drafts of 18-year old men. Therefore there are no reasons for any panic. 
On the contrary, the troops in the front line have never before considered themselves victors in 
the way that they do at present. 

This Army order is to be read out to aU units. 

(Sd.) Von dek Maewttz, 

General. 

Extract from an order of the 2nd Guard Division, dated 27/8/18. 
According to reports received by Army Headquarters the infantry of other divisions in the 
battle hardly made any use of their rifles. The whole defence had been left to the machine-guns 



70 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY [August 21st 

the French offensive on the Marne front in July, that American troops in 
large numbers had arrived in the battle area, had given a very good account 
of themselves, and had thus proved in the most forcible manner that 
the unrestricted " U " boat campaign had failed. 

The conservation of man power constituted a very important feature 
of the battle. Between August 8th and August 21st we had lost 1,423 
officers and 25,856 other ranks, killed, wounded, and missing ; the 
enemy's losses in prisoners alone during that period amounted to some 
23,000, while his losses in killed and wounded were known to be very 
heavy. 

This was a satisfactory balance sheet, and, if the same proportion of 
losses could be maintained, it was certain that we should be able to outlast 
the Germans in the final struggle. 

and artillery. A large number of cases have also been substantiated in which companies of 
infantry have passed through the artillery lines, and have taken no notice of the request of the 
artillery to protect them. The strongest and severest measures will be taken to prevent conduct 
which points to such neglect of duty. By order of the Army, artillery officers are empowered 
to ascertain and report the name of any imit and commander refusing protection to the artillery. 
Men who come back from the front and are met by the military police without their arms are to 
be punished by court-martial. 

Subordinate commanders are to use every opportunity for the delivery of controlled rifle- 
fire. Control is to be exercised by regimental and battalion commanders. In this respect, I 
particularly call attention to the special necessity in defensive warfare of having reliable non- 
commissioned officers behind the front. On every occasion, it must be made absolutely clear 
to the men that their rifles are their best means of defence, and that the attacking enemy must 
be shot down. 

(Sd.) Von Freideburg. 



CHAPTER V 

THE ADVANCE TO PERONNE, AUGUST 21ST — 30TH 

Maps 2, 4, and 5 

August 21st ; the opening of the second phase ; the general policy — The III Corps plan of attack 
for August 22nd — August 22nd ; the artillery support — The attack by the 47th and 12th 
Divisions— The capture of Albert by the 18th Division — The advance of the 3rd Australian 
Division — The German counter-attack in the Happy Valley — August 23rd ; the operations 
of the Australian Corps south of the Somme — The general plan of attack — The first phase 
of the Australian Corps attack — The second phase — The third phase ; the capture of Chuignes 
— The action of the 32nd Division — The capture of Tara and Usna Hills — August 24th ; 
the capture of Bray-sur-Sonime and Becordel-Becourt by the Australian and III Corps — The 
situation on the Fourth Army front on the night of August 24th — The readjustment of the 
Australian Corps front south of the Somme — August 25th ; the capture of Ceylon Wood and 
Fricourt — Our artillery policy — The enemy's retirement in front of the Third Army — The 
events of August 26th — The action of the hostile artillerj- — August 27th ; the renewal of the 
pressure south of the Somme — The co-operation of the First French Army with the Australian 
Corps — The events north of the Somme — The capture of Trones Wood by the 18th Division — 
The events of August 28th — The events of August 29th ; our troops reach the banks of the 
Somme south of Peronne — The advance north of the Somme on August 30th. 

In his despatch of December 21st, 1918, Sir Douglas Haig has 

explained his reasons for extending the front of attack northwards to the 

area between the Somme and the Scarpe in the follo^^^ng 

August 21st ; the open- ^^.^^0 . 

ing of the second phase ; »*uiu& . 
the general policy » rj.^^ ^^^^^ jjj ^^^ ^^^^ prepared to meet an 

attack in this direction, and, owing to the success of the Fourth 
Army, he occupied a salient the left flank of which was already 
threatened from the south. A further reason for my decision was 
that the ground north of the Ancre River was not greatly damaged 
by shell fire, and was suitable for the use of tanks. A successful 
attack between Albert and Arras in a south-easterly direction would 
turn the line of the Somme south of Peronne, and gave every promise 
of producing far-reaching results. It would be a step forward to the 
strategic objective St. Quentin-Cambrai. ... It was arranged that on 
the morning of August 21st a limited attack should be laimched north 
of the Ancre to gain the general line of the Arras-Albert railway, on 
which it was correctly assumed that the enemy's main line of resistance 
was sited. The day of August 22nd would then be used to get troops 
and guns into position on this front and to bring forward the left of 
the Fourth Army between the Somme and the Ancre. The principal 

71 



72 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY [August 218T 

attack would be delivered on August 23rd by the Third Army and 
the divisions of the Fourth Army north of the Somme, the remainder 
of the Fourth Army assisting by pushing forward south of the river 
to cover the flank of the main operation. Thereafter, if success 
attended our efforts, the whole of both Armies were to press forward 
with the greatest vigour and exploit to the full any advantage we 
might have gained." 

The centre of gravity of the British offensive was, consequently, 
transferred for a time from the front of the Fourth Army to that of the 
Third Army north of Albert. At 4.55 a.m. on August 21st, Sir Julian 
Byng launched eight divisions against the enemy's defences between 
Grandecourt, five miles north of Albert, and Moyenneville, seven miles 
south of Arras, on a front of some 16,000 yards. 

News of the battle was eagerly awaited by the Fourth Army, as it 
was kno^^'n that, if all went well on August 21st, offensive operations were 
to be resumed on the Fourth Army front between the Somme and Albert 
on August 22nd as a preliminary to a general advance on Peronne. Early 
news was received that Beaucourt, Achiet, and Courcelles had been 
captured with 2,000 prisoners, and that the enemy was holding the line 
of the Albert-Arras railway very strongly. This was a satisfactory 
beginning, and no doubt was felt that the enemy's resistance would soon 
be broken, and his troops compelled to retire. 

There were at this time indications that the Germans were contem- 
plating a withdrawal in front of the First Army south of the Scarpe. 
Moreover, although the enemy was fighting very stubbornly against the 
Third Army north of Albert, the moral and general condition of his troops 
along the whole of the Allied front was now known to be such that, if 
bold and resolute tactics were adopted, his total collapse appeared 
probable. This was fully realised at General Headquarters, and an order 
was issued by Sir Douglas Haig on August 22nd to all Army Commanders 
defining a ruthless offensive policy designed to achieve the final downfall 
of the German Armies.^ The efforts of the Fourth Army for the next 

1 " I request that Army Commanders will without delay bring to the notice of all subordinate 
leaders the changed conditions under which operations are now being carried on, and the con- 
sequent necessity for all ranks to act with the utmost boldness and resolution in order to get full 
advantage from the present favourable situation. 

" The effect of the two very severe defeats and the continuous attacks to which the enemy 
has been subjected during the past months has been to wear out his troops and disorganise his 
plans. Our Second and Fifth Armies have ♦aken their share in the effort to destroy the enemy 
and already have gained considerable ground from him in the Lys sector of our front. To-day 
the Tenth French Army crossed the Ailette and reports that a Bavarian division fled in panic, 
carrying back with it another division which was advancing to its support. 

" To-morrow the attack of the Allied Armies on the whole front from Soissons to Neuville 
Vitasse, near Arras, is to be continued. The methods which we have followed hitherto in our 
battles with limited objectives, when the enemy was strong, are no longer suitable to his present 
condition. The enemy has not the means to deliver counter-attacks on an extended scale, nor 
has he the numbers to hold a continuous position against the very extended advance which is 
being directed against him. In order to turn the present situation to account, the most resolute 
offensive is everywhere desirable. Risks which a month ago would have been criminal to incur 
ought now to be incurred as a duty. 

" It is no longer necessary to advanCe in regular lines and step by step. On the contrary, 
each division should be given a distant objective which must be reached independently of its 
neighbour, and even if one's flank is thereby exposed for the time being. Reinforcements must 
be directed on points where our troops are gaining ground, not where they are checked. A vigorous 







W 
I 

X 
H 
D 
O 

w 

X 



o 

H 
C 

t> 
o 

a: 

o 

w 
I 

h 
G 
< 

3i 

w 

PQ 
< 



August 21stJ THE ADVANCE TO PERONNE 78 

ten days were, therefore, directed towards Peronne, in co-operation with the 
advance of the Third Army on Bapaume, and with that of the First French 
Army on Ham.^ Thus the second phase of the operations of the Fourth 
Army in the battles of the hundred days, which opened with the attack 
of the III Corps between the Somme and the Ancre on August 22nd, 
formed part of the general advance of the Allied Armies from Soissons 
to the Scarpe. 

As a prelude to any renewal of the advance north of the Somme, it 
was necessary to eject the enemy from the trench system which he was 
holding opposite the Amiens outer defences. This system, although only 
recently established, was well organised and was supported by a substantial 
weight of artillery. It was also necessary, in order to enable the V Corps 
on the right of the Third Army to advance east of the Ancre, that the 
enemy should be driven out of the positions in and around Albert which 
he had been holding for the past four months. Since August 6th our 
patrols had occupied positions in the western portion of Albert, but had 
been unable to drive the enemy from the remainder of the town. North 
of Albert the swampy reaches of the Ancre were impassable except by 
means of bridges and causeways ; these would have to be constructed 
if an advance was to be made across the river by the V Corps. As the 
construction of these bridges wovdd involve considerable labour, time, 
and casualties, it was decided first to clear Albert, and then to pass troops 
of the V Corps through the town in order to turn the enemy's positions 
east of the Ancre from the south. 

On August 22nd the III Corps was to attack between the Bray-sur- 
Somme-Corbie road and Albert inclusive, whilst, on the right of the III 
Corps, the 3rd Australian Division was to advance its 
B?ack™oSus?22nf ^^ft in order to protect the right flank of the attack. 
The immediate object of the operation was to secure 
the high ground which lies north of Bray-sur-Somme, east of the well- 
known Happy Valley, and between the Chalk Pit and Becordel-Becourt, 
also the western slopes of Shamrock and Tara Hills. The task of 
securing the high ground east of the Happy Valley, and between the 
Chalk Pit and Becordel-Becourt, was allotted to the 47th and 12th 
Divisions, their final objective representing an advance of some 3,000 
yards. There was also an intermediate objective for these two divisions 
about 1,000 yards west of the final objective on the western slopes 
of the Happy Valley. On the right Maj.-Gen. Gorringe, commanding 
the 47th Division, detailed the 141st Brigade to capture the first objective. 
The 142nd Brigade in support was then to " leap-frog " the leading 
brigade and secure the final objective ; the 140th Brigade was in reserve. 
The 12th Division, under Maj.-Gen. Higginson, operating on a 

offensive will cause hostile strong points to fall and in due course our whole Army will be able 
to continue its advance. This procedure will result in speedily breaking up the hostile forces 
and will cost us much less than if we attempted to deal with the present situation in a half-hearted 
manner. The situation is most favourable. Let each one of us act energetically and, without 
hesitation, push forward to our objective." 

' These three towns were important road junctions and of considerable strategical value to 
the enemy, as is apparent from a study of the Somme campaigns of 1916 and 1917, wherein they 
played a most conspicuous part and represented the main centres of the enemy's resistance. 

L 



74 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY [August 22nd 

slightly broader front, employed the 35th and 36th Brigades, attacking 
side by side, to capture both objectives, with the 37th Brigade in reserve. 
Orders were issued for all ground gained to be consolidated and organised 
for defence in depth, as it was possible that a temporary halt might have 
to be made on this line, until a further advance by the Third Army 
should threaten the enemy's communications. 

The task of the 3rd Australian Division on the right of the 47th 
Division was to ensure the security of the southern flank of the III Corps 
by advancing its left to the high ground immediately north of Bray- 
sur-Somme. This necessitated an advance of approximately 2,000 yards, 
and the task was entrusted to the 9th Australian Brigade. 

On the left, the crossing of the Ancre between Dernancourt and 
Albert, and the clearing of Albert, presented numerous difficulties. This 
task was assigned to the 18th Division. Maj.-Gen. Lee decided to 
employ the 54th Brigade to secure the ground between Meaulte and 
Albert ; the 55th Brigade to complete the capture of Albert and secure 
the southern portion of Tara Hill, and Shamrock Hill ; the 53rd Brigade 
was retained in divisional reserve.^ 

In order to ensure that no opportunity should be missed of pressing 
forward on the heels of the enemy, should he show further signs of with- 
drawal, the reserve brigades were organised ready to assume the role of an 
advanced guard if the situation so demanded. In addition, a force of two 
squadrons of the III Corps Cavalry, supported by six whippet tanks and 
one troop of Australian Light Horse attached to the 3rd Australian 
Division, was organised for the purpose of pushing forward as far as the 
small woods on the high ground north of Suzanne, some 4,000 yards 
beyond the objective allotted to the 47th Division. 

Sir Alec. Godley retained the 58th Division in corps reserve, but 
instructed Maj.-Gen. Ramsay to move one brigade at " zero " to an 
assembly position in rear of the 18th Division, and two brigades to a 
position just west of Morlancourt. 

The preparations for the attack were made with the utmost effort 
to ensure secrecy. There was no preliminary bombardment other than 
the normal harassing fire which was maintained until " zero." Neverthe- 
less, the enemy appears to have discovered that trouble was brewing. 
This was proved not only by the statements of prisoners, but by the 
weight of the enemy's counter-preparation during the night of August 
21st. This bombardment was especially heavy at 4 a.m. on the morning 
of August 22nd, only forty-five minutes before " zero," when a consider- 
able quantity of gas shell was fired, making it necessary for our troops 
to adjust their gas helmets. The assembly was not, however, seriously 
hampered. 

At " zero," which had been fixed for 4.45 a.m., the barrage from 250 
guns came down 200 yards in front of the leading waves of the 47th and 
12th Divisions. This was the signal for the assembled infantry and tanks 
of these divisions to advance under cover of a creeping barrage, moving 

' As soon as Albert had been cleared of the enemy, the 38th Division, under the command 
of Maj.-Gen. T. A. Cubitt, which formed the right of the V Corps, was to pass through the town 
and operate in a north-easterly direction. 



August 22nd] THE ADVANCE TO PERONNE 75 

forward at the rate of 100 yards every four minutes. The 18th 

Division moved forward covered by the fire of four brigades of field 

artillery, which fired on centres of resistance, and pro- 

^artmery^support*^ vided a dense smoke screen designed to conceal the 

movements of the attacking troops and tanks. A smoke 

screen was also placed on the high ground which formed the objective, 

thus depriving the enemy of valuable observation points. 

The 47th and 12th Divisions, each supported by ten Mark V tanks, 

made good progress. The enemy's resistance was not formidable, with 

the result that by 6.45 a.m. the whole of the inter- 

■'?nVl2th KfoS'"" mediate objective, about 2,000 yards from the "starting 

line," was in our possession, except at one point near the 

Filiform Tree close to the boundary between the two divisions. Here a 

party of Germans stubbornly defended the crest of the rise and defeated 

all attempts to dislodge them. 

The barrage was halted for ten minutes covering the intermediate 
objective, before moving forward again in advance of our troops to 
the final objective. Once again the infantry surged forward, but found 
its progress more strongly opposed. On the front of the 47th Division 
small parties of the enemy, concealed by the numerous folds in the ground 
on the eastern slopes of the Happy Valley, checked our advance, and were 
only " mopped up " after hard and stubborn fighting. Some of these 
parties in the northern end of the valley also helped to stiffen the resistance 
offered earlier in the morning in the vicinity of the Filiform Tree, and no 
further progress was made at this point. Elsewhere the 47th Division 
reached the final objective. The 12th Division succeeded in clearing the 
whole of Meaulte, and secured the high ground along the Bray-sur-Somme- 
Albert road south-east of the village, but, as Avith the 47th Division, its 
further progress was checked by the party of Germans, who clung 
desperately to the position near the Filiform Tree. Thus, at the close of 
the first phase of the battle, the 47th and 12th Divisions had seciired 
their objectives except in the vicinity of the Filiform Tree. 

As soon as the 47th Division reached the final objective, the two 
squadrons of corps cavalry moved forward to carry out their role of 
exploitation. The moment they left the shelter of the Happy Valley 
and appeared over the crest of the rise which our troops were 
consolidating, heavy artillery and machine-gun fire was directed 
upon them. It at once became apparent that the situation was 
not suitable for the employment of mounted troops, and the cavalry 
was therefore withdrawn. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, 
the whippet tanks, which should have accompanied the cavalry, 
were unable to move forward in support owing to mechanical trouble and 
other causes, and consequently did not take part in the action. Even 
if they had moved forward with the cavalry, it is very doubtful whether 
they would have been able to render any assistance, as the enemy was 
completely ready and prepared for our attack. 

On the left, the 18th Division, assigned the difficult task of clearing 
Albert and its environs of the enemy, was assisted by four Mark V tanks. 
On the evening of August 21st strong patrols of the 54th Brigade had 



76 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY [August 22nd 

succeeded in crossing the Ancre at dusk, and had gained a footing on the 
Albert-Meaulte road, south of Albert and north of Vivier Mill. This very 
well executed enterprise simplified the task of the 5-ith 
]^^he''lsth Division Brigade, as it to a great extent rendered unnecessary 
the difficult, and probably costly, operation of forcing 
the passage of the Ancre and its^marshes in the face of strong opposi- 
tion. 

Following on the brilliant patrol work of the 54th Brigade, came the 
gallant achievement of the 55th Brigade, which carried out the difficult 
operation of dislodging the enemy from his well-concealed and strongly- 
defended posts in the ruins of Albert. It was work which could not be 
hurried, and required exceptional thoroughness and individual initiative. 
The operation for capturing the town was divided into three phases. The 
first phase began at 4.45 a.m., when a heavy bombardment was directed 
on the whole of that portion of Albert which lies east of the Ancre. This 
bombardment lasted for an hour, during Avhich time the 8th East Surrey 
worked its way through that part of the town which lies west of the river. 
For the second phase, the bombardment was lifted on to the strong 
points on the eastern outskirts, where it remained stationary until 6.45 
a.m., while the 8th East Surrey cleared the town east of the river. In 
the final phase the bombardment was lifted clear of the town. By 
9.10 a.m. the 8th East Surrey had overcome the enemy's resistance and 
was in complete occupation of Albert. 

Meanwhile by " zero," under cover of the patrols, the 11th Royal 
Fusiliers and three companies of the 6th Northamptonshire, of the 54th 
Brigade, had silently assembled east of the Ancre along the Vivier Mill- 
Albert road. The remainder of the latter battalion, which had been 
unable to cross the Ancre south of Vivier Mill, fought its way forward to 
the western exit of Meaulte, which it reached a little before 5.30 a.m. A 
quarter of an hour later, the two attacking battalions swept forward from 
the line of the Vivier Mill-Albert road, under cover of a creeping barrage, 
supported by the four Mark V tanks which had been allotted to the 
division. The enemy was holding his position with pairs of machine-guns 
disposed in depth along the front ; over 80 of these were captured, 
and many more destroyed by shell fire. By 8 a.m. the 6th Northampton- 
shire had gained the slopes of Shamrock Hill, and was in touch with the 
12th Division east of Meaulte. On its left the 11th Royal Fusiliers, after 
meeting with strong opposition from the direction of Albert, Bellevue 
Farm, and Shamrock Hill, had reached a line 500 yards east of Bellevue 
Farm. About 10 a.m. the 7th The Buffs, of the 55th Brigade, which was 
supporting the attack of the 8th East Siurey on Albert, debouched from 
the town and endeavoured to advance towards Tara Hill, but was unable 
to proceed beyond the eastern outskirts of the town owing to the 
severity of the machine-gun fire. During the afternoon a company of 
the 2nd Bedfordshire, supporting the attack of the 54th Brigade, moved 
through the advanced troops and secured the summit of Shamrock Hill, 
from which the German machine-guns had been particularly active. 

Starting at " zero " and keeping close up to the barrage, the 9th 
Australian Brigade, operating on the right of the 47th Division, advanced 







■r. 

D 



Z 



z 

< 

Z 




w 
< 

K 
O 

z 

s 

o 
o 



Q 
Z 
is 
o 

o 

X 

o 



w 

X 
H 



Z 
< 

< 

f- 
cn 



. H 

V a 

o z 

z w 

O w 

5 H 



w 

H 

z 
o 



<1. 



August 22nd] THE ADVANCE TO PERONNE 77 

to the first objective, a distance of about 1,000 yards from the 

"starting line," The enemy's resistance was quickly 

'^luSiarLS^S overcome, and the advance was so rapid that many 

machine-guns were captured before the crews could 

bring them into action.^ 

After a halt of an hour on the first objective, the advance of the 
Australians was resumed. This halt had allowed the enemy time to shorten 
his artillery barrage, which caused a number of casualties, but, in spite 
of this, the final objective was gained by 8.30 a.m. In this latter stage 
of the attack the troops of the 47th Division, which were operating im- 
mediately on the left of the 9th Brigade, diverged too much to the left, 
probably on account of the resistance encountered in the Happy 
Valley, and a company of the 34th Battalion of the 9th Brigade was in 
conseqvience sent forward to strengthen the left flank. This company 
succeeded in capturing the Chalk Pit, where it was relieved later in the 
day by troops of the 47th Division. While these operations were in 
progress the 3rd Australian Pioneer Battalion, which was holding the 
Etinehem spur from the Bray-sur-Somme-Corbie road to the river, 
advanced our line to the Crucifix, from which point the whole of the village 
of Bray-sur-Somme was under observation. 

In order to reap full advantage from the success gained by the 
III Corps and the 3rd Australian Division, orders were issued by Sir 
Henry Rawlinson, on the evening of August 22nd, for a combined attack 
to be made by the III Corps north of the Somme, in conjunction with an 
attack by the Australian Corps south of the river. The attack by the 
Australian Corps had already been arranged for the early morning of 
August 23rd. Sir Alec. Godley accordingly issued orders for an attack 
to be launched on the whole front of the III Corps on the 23rd, but a 
change in the situation, caused by a German counter-attack in the Happy 
Valley on the afternoon of the 22nd, necessitated a modification of his 
plans, and it was finally decided to carry out the attack only on the 
northern part of the front held by the ISth Division. 

Throughout the afternoon of August 22nd the enemy shelled the 

Happy Valley and the high ground to the east of it, where the advanced 

The German counter- troops of the 47th Division were digging in. Unfor- 

attack in the Happy tunatcly the cresccnt-shapcd formation of the high 

Valley ground east of the Happy Valley had necessitated the 

troops on the right of the 47th Division taking up a position in a semicircle, 

and this minimised the effectiveness of the protective barrage. At 

5.30 p.m. the shelling increased in volume, and the enemy in considerable 

strength attacked the 142nd Brigade of the 47th Division. Although 

the consolidating troops offered a stout resistance, they were forced to 

withdraw west of the Happy Valley, finally taking up a position along the 

Bray-sur-Somme-Albcrt road. On the extreme right of the 142nd Brigade, 

two companies of the 22nd London held their ground for some time, but were 

finally forced to withdraw, thus leaving the flank of the 3rd Australian 

Division dangerously exposed. After a hard fight the Chalk Pit was 

' A German battalion commander and his staff, captured in the fight, could speak of nothing 
but the rapidity with which our men were upon them and surrounded their machine-guns. 



78 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY [August 22nd 

secured by the enemy, but was recaptured almost immediately by a 
company of the 33rd Battalion of the 9th Australian Brigade. This 
company, in conjunction ^vith the two companies of the 22nd London, 
then formed a defensive flank along an underspur running into the Happy 
Valley. Reserve machine-guns were sent forward to take up positions 
on the high ground immediately north of the Bray-s\ir-Somme-Corbie road, 
and the 140th Brigade was pushed forward as a further reserve to provide 
against contingencies, but no further attack developed. The enemy placed a 
number of machine-guns in the Happy Valley, the fire of which inter- 
mittently swept the area held by the 3rd Australian Division north of the 
Bray-sur-Somme-Corbie road, and was a constant source of trouble to 
reinforcements and ration parties moving forward to the front line. 

On account of this check, and owing to the casualties suffered by the 
142nd Brigade, the 47th Division was unable to continue the attack on 
August 23rd, as had been originally intended. The 175th Brigade of the 
58th Division was moved up from corps reserve, and was placed at the dis- 
posal of ]\Iaj.-Gen. Gorringe for the relief of the 142nd Brigade. This 
relief was effected on the night of August 22nd, and the relief of the 47th 
Division by the 58th Division was completed on the morning of August 24th. 

South of the Somme, no untoward incident interfered with our plans, 
and the attack of the Australian Corps, with the 32nd Division on the 
right and the 1st Australian Division on the left, was 
ti(fiw of the Aus^traiian' carried out on a front of foiu- miles, extending from 
Corps south of the Herleville to the Somme. The 5th Australian Division, 
Somme which was holding the sector immediately south of the 

Somme on the night of August 22nd, remained in position until the 
assembly of the 1st Australian Division was complete, when it was with- 
drawn into reserve. 

Sir John Monash decided to carry out the attack, the object of which 
was the capture of the general line Herleville-Chuignes-Square Wood, in 
three phases. The objectives of the first phase in- 
'^mckllS>mS^^ eluded Herleville and ChuignoUes, and the Plateau 
Woods and the Arcy Woods. Here the enemy had 
constructed an organised defensive system since August 12th, and, 
although these defences were by no means formidable, a certain 
amount of resistance was to be expected. Sir John Monash considered, 
therefore, that ample artillery and tank support must be provided, and 
that a carefully organised attack must be prepared by the 32nd Division 
and the 1st Australian Division. In the second phase the line to be 
reached ran along the foot of the eastern slopes of the ChuignoUes 
Valley, from near Chuignes to the Somme. This attack was to be carried 
out by the 1st Australian Division without artillery assistance, as no serious 
opposition was expected. Finally, the third phase, the execution of 
which was dependent upon the success of the preceding phases, involved 
an attack by the 1st Australian Division against the high ground east of 
the ChuignoUes Valley, as far as the Chuignes-Cappy road and the western 
outskirts of Cappy. The objective also included the village of Chuignes. 

On the right, Maj.-Gen. Lambert detailed the 97th Brigade for the 
attack on Herleville. On the left. Maj.-Gen. Glasgow employed the 2nd 



August 23rd] THE ADVANCE TO PERONNE 79 

and 1st Australian Brigades, operating on the right and left respectively, 
while the task of captxiring the final objective was allotted to the 3rd 
Brigade.^ 

The field artillery barrage covering the initial advance of the infantry 
to the first objective was furnished by fifteen field artillery brigades, 
six of which were to support the advance of the 32nd Division, and nine 
that of the 1st Australian Division. A smoke screen was placed on the 
Bray-sur-Somme spur north of the Somme, but, contrary to the usual 
custom, smoke shells were not employed in the barrage to define the 
various stages of the advance. Throughout the operation the task of the 
heavy artillery, in addition to the requisite counter-battery fire, was to 
keep the crossings over the Somme at Cappy and Eclusier under a steady 
fire, and to bombard selected targets in the vicinity of Foucaucourt and 
the roads further east. 

Twelve tanks of the 8th Mark V Tank Battalion were detailed to 
co-operate with the 32nd Division in the attack on Herleville, while 
the 1st and 2nd Australian Brigades Avere each allotted twelve tanks 
from the 13th and 2nd Mark V Tank Battalions respectively. In addition, 
each attacking brigade was allotted three tanks of an older type for 
carrying forward additional ammunition and supplies. By dawTi on 
August 22nd all the tanks had been assembled within 3,000 yards of the 
front line, and at 9.30 p.m. that night they moved forward to their 
" starting line," which was approximately 1,000 yards in rear of that of 
the infantry. 

The attack, which was timed to start simultaneously ^"ith that of 

the 18th Division against Tara Hill, was launched at 4.45 a.m. on 

The first phase of the the morning of August 23rd. As soon as the 

Australian Corps artillery barrage, which was in all respects excellent, 

attack came down, the infantry moved forward followed 

by the tanks. The latter were well up to time with the exception 

of those supporting the 2nd Australian Brigade, which were a little late 

in arriving at the " starting line," and only succeeded in catching up the 

infantry at a later stage of the advance. 

On the 32nd Division front the 2nd King's Own Yorkshire Light 
Infantry and 10th Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of the 97th Brigade 
attacked Herleville, and the village was soon in our possession. Heavy 
fighting occurred near the church, where the enemy was in considerable 
strength and fought with determination. 

On the 1st Australian Division front the assaulting troops of the 
2nd and 1st Australian Brigades, keeping close up to the barrage, made 
good progress and quickly overran the enemy's outpost line. South of 
the Amiens-Brie road considerable opposition was encountered by the 2nd 
Brigade in the neighbourhood of the St. Denis Woods, where it was 
difficult for the troops to advance as the ground was broken bv a deep cnilly 
and sunken roads. The St. Denis Woods were strongly defended, and 
enfilade machine-gun fire from the southern portion of the St. 3Iartin 
Woods delayed their capture for a short time, vmtil the timely arrival of 

' The 32nd Division, in the first phase, attacked on a front of 2,000 yards, and the 1st Aus- 
tralian Division on a front of 5,000 yards. 



80 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY [August 23rd 

the tanks enabled the infantry to clear them. Further north it took 
some time to " mop up " the large expanse of the St. Martin Woods, 
but, as this work was done chiefly by the supporting troops, the advance 
was not delayed, and the 2nd Brigade was able to keep well up to the 
barrage and made good progress. 

At 5.15 a.m. the infantry of the 1st Brigade was entering the Matto 
Woods, after having overcome the enemy's resistance on the outskirts 
with the assistance of a tank. Robert Wood, which was strongly held, 
was surrounded by our troops, and the enemy surrendered freely. In the 
sunken road between the Matto Woods and Robert W^ood many Germans 
surrendered to the 1st Brigade without attempting to fight. ChuignoUes 
was surrounded and " mopped up " with the effective assistance of the 
tanks, and almost immediately afterwards ChuignoUes Wood fell into 
our hands. Owing, however, to the heavy machine-gun fire which was 
encountered, it was found necessary to make a temporary withdrawal 
to its southern outskirts. On the extreme left of the 1st Brigade German 
machine-guns caused trouble from the outset of the attack, and it was 
only after stiff fighting that our troops reached their objective. 

It had been arranged for the barrage to halt at 5.30 a.m. for fifteen 
minutes some distance short of the first objective, to ensure that the 
infantry should not lose it. When this hour arrived the situation was 
well in hand, and the infantry was almost everywhere in touch with the 
barrage. At 5.45 a.m. the barrage was again lifted, and the advance to 
the first objective was resumed. The troops of 32nd Division pushed for- 
ward, and the 2nd King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry gained its objec- 
tive on the light without difficulty, but considerable opposition was 
experienced on the left from the fire of machine-guns posted in the Herle- 
ville Woods. One of these copses was held by 50 Germans who were sur- 
romided, and eventually surrendered to three of our men after the officer 
in command had been shot. 

Owing to the increasing opposition met from the Herleville Woods, 
the troops of the 2nd Australian Brigade on the right began to lose the 
impetus of their initial attack, and the advance became slower. The 
splendid leadership of Lieut. William Joynt of the 8th Battalion, 
however, here stood the 2nd Australian Brigade in good stead. Realising 
that the men of the leading battalion had lost all their officers and had 
become disorganised, Lieut. Joynt rushed forward across the open from 
his own battalion, under very heavy fire, to join them. Having got the 
men under cover of some dead ground, he re-formed them, and linked 
them up with his o\vn men. A personal reconnaissance showed him 
that the fire from the Herleville Woods was holding up the whole advance. 
Without any hesitation he dashed forward, calling on the men to follow 
him. By sheer force of example he inspired them to make a brilliant 
bayonet charge, which was successful in reaching and entering the woods. ^ 
Although fighting in the Herleville Woods continued most of the day, 
by 7 a.m. the 2nd Brigade had worked through or round them and had 
reached the first objective. The 1st Brigade similarly met with deter- 
mined resistance from the high ground north-east of the St. Martin Woods, 

1 See Appendix E, No. 28. 




Q 
2 

o 
« 

< 
n 

w 

X 



O 



CO 

o 

0! 



en 

W 

o 

z 

a 



2! 






H 

Z 

o 
u 



« = 






^ 



August 23rd] THE ADVANCE TO PERONNE 81 

but the attack was resolutely pushed home, and, with the admirable 
co-operation of the tanks, the high ground which constituted the objective 
at this point was secured. 

At 7 a.m., although the first objective had been gained, the 1st 
Australian and 32nd Divisions had lost touch with each other, and a gap 
of some hundreds of yards existed between them, through which the 
enemy was endeavouring to force his way. A company of the 8th 
Australian Battalion, however, was at once moved up, and succeeded 
in filling the gap and regaining touch. 

The second phase, which really became merged into the first phase, 

consisted of a number of small attacks against the numerous small 

woods and copses north-east of Chuignolles, without 

The second phase the support of an artillery barrage. The opposition 

was very local, and by about 7 a.m. the whole area 

inside the second objective was clear of the enemy .^ 

The attack on the third objective was carried out by the 3rd Australian 

Brigade which advanced in artillery formation, with the 12th and 9th 

^ .^- , ^ XV Battalions leading, the 11th in support, and the 10th 

The third phase; the • rm_ /-> i ■• .■• 

capture oi Chuignes ^^ reserve. The Germans, who were under the im- 
pression that our advance had come to an end, were 
holding this high ground in considerable strength. At 2 p.m. the 12th 
and 9th Battalions deployed west of the Long Woods and Luc "Wood, 
and advanced through the 1st Brigade and across the valley, under cover 
of a creeping barrage provided by three field artillery brigades which had 
been pushed forward rapidly during the early phases of the advance. The 
high ground overlooking Chuignolles, and at the Marly Woods and Froissy 
Beacon, was stormed, and the enemy fell back in confusion to Garenne 
Wood and Square Wood. On the left, however, the enemy's artillery 
fire was heavy and caused the 9th Battalion numerous casualties, and 
the 10th Battalion, from reserve, was sent up to protect the left flank 
of the advance. The 11th Battalion, which diu-ing the advance had 
followed in close support of the 12th Battalion, was employed in the 
actual capture of the Marly Woods and Froissy Beacon. Turning due 
north, while the 12th Battalion continued its advance, this battalion 
attacked the enemy in flank and took him completely by surprise. ^ 

Meanwhile, the 12th Battalion reached the outskirts "of Garenne Wood, 
which was held too strongly to permit of its being captured by a frontal 
attack. An enveloping movement was, therefore, carried ' out, and 
resulted in the capture of the wood with seventy prisoners. At the same 
time Square Wood was secured, and our troops were able to follow the 
retreating enemy to within 400 yards of Cappy. One companv, after 
penetrating as far as the \nllage itself, eventually withdrew without difficulty. 
During this fighting the remaining brigades of the 1st Australian 
Division had not been idle. The 1st Brigade, under cover of the barrage 
which supported the attack of the 3rd Brigade, gained possession of 

' In the Arcy Woods there was found a 15-inch gun on a huge mounting. The gun, which 
was one of those employed for bombarding Amiens, had been cither blown up intentionally or 
accidentally destroyed by a premature explosion. 

» Although capturing over 100 prisoners, the total casualties of the llth Battalion for the 
day amounted to two. 

M 



82 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY [August 23rd 

Chuignes, and of the spur and small valley immediately south of the village. 
The 2nd Brigade on the right pushed forward patrols, but, o^ving to the 
number of casualties the brigade had suffered during the earlier stages 
of the advance and to the resistance offered by the enemy, very little progress 
was made. 

While the 97th Brigade of the 32nd Division was attacking the 

enemy's positions around Herleville, the 96th Brigade on its right, under 

cover of the creeping barrage which was extended to 

^^ ^^ Division ^ ° ^^^ south as far as Lihons, pushed forward strong 

patrols and succeeded in advancing the line 500 yards 

south of Herleville.^ 

During this very successful day's fighting the 1st Australian and 
32nd Divisions again greatly distinguished themselves by skilful leader- 
ship, intelligent use of the ground, and the dash and gallantry of all ranks. 
The 1st Austrahan Division secured 2,596 prisoners, 23 guns, and 167 
machine-guns, and the 32nd Division 311 prisoners and many machine- 
guns. 

Before the V Corps on the right of the Third Army could make 
any progress, it was essential to capture the Tara Hill-Usna Hill 
ridge, astride the AJbert-Bapaume road, and thus 
^and^uSaHUk"^ secure the flank of the V Corps. Consequently, 
after consultation with Maj.-Gen. Cubitt, command- 
ing the 38th Division, Maj.-Gen. Lee arranged for the 53rd Brigade, 
which had been in reserve on August 22nd, and which he reinforced with 
the 7th The Queens, to attack this ridge at dawn on August 23rd in 
conjunction with the 113th Brigade of the 38th Division. The latter 
brigade was to move through Albert and attack Usna Hill, after deploying 
east of the marshy reaches of the Ancre immediately north of Albert. 
In order to make it possible to assemble the 113th Brigade, the 55th 
Brigade, which was holding Albert, advanced its line about 500 yards 
during the night astride the Albert-Bapaume road. This allowed the 
113th Brigade svifficient space from which to debouch from the eastern 
exits of Albert. The assembly positions of the latter brigade to the north of 
the town were reached with some difficulty, as the troops had in some cases 
to wade waist high through the swamps east of the Ancre. At 4.45 a.m., 
after overcoming all difficulties, the 53rd Brigade on the right assisted by 
six Mark V tanks, and the 113th Brigade on the left formed up with its 
back to the floods, launched a frontal attack against Tara and Usna 
Hills and captured the ridge by 6 a.m. 

These operations improved our position very materially and gave us 
a good footing on the slopes of the high ground overlooking Albert. This 
high ground, it was realised, would be our next objective, as soon as the 
advance of the Third Army towards Bapaume began to threaten the rear 
of the enemy's position on the Longueval-High Wood-Pozieres ridge, 
and as soon as the remainder of the troops of the III Corps were ready to 
advance. 

' The 4th Australian Division also made incursions into the enemy's lines, in one of which 
Lieut. McCarthy, 16th Australian Battalion, took 5 machine-guns and 50 prisoners almost 
single-handed. See Appendix E, No. 32. 



August 24th] THE ADVANCE TO PERONNE 83 

On the evening of the 23rd, as the result of the success gained during 
the day, Sir Henry Rawlinson issued orders for the pressure to be main- 
tained along the whole army front north of the Somme. 

The capture of Tara and Usna Hills, on the morning of the 23rd, 
concluded the initial phase of the operations north of the Somme, and the 
August 24th; the capture remainder of the day was spent in consolidating the 
of Bray-sur-Somme and position and in organising tor a lurther advance. As 
B6cordei-B6court by the the weather was perfect and the moon full, it was 
Australian and HI Corps ^^^^^^^ ^^ ^^ry the tactics, and to attempt an advance 
by night all along the front north of the river. 

Prior to the attack Bray-sur-Somme and La Neuville-les-Bray, as 
well as the centres of hostile activity east and south of these places, were 
harassed with artillery fire. Taking advantage of this opportunity, the 
3rd Australian Pioneer Battalion, as soon as it was sufficiently dark, 
crossed the river south of Bray-sur-Somme by bridges, which it had 
thrown across the night before, and by midnight had cleared La Neuville- 
les-Bray and the peninsula formed by the bend in the river. 

The main attack by the 3rd Australian, 47th, 12th, and 18th 
Divisions, in the order named from south to north, started at 1 a.m. in 
brilliant moonlight. On the right the 40th Australian Battalion attacked 
the village of Bray-sur-Somme. It encountered opposition on the out- 
skirts of the village, and after experiencing some difficulty in maintaining 
touch and direction in the village, succeeded in establishing a line 
along the eastern edge. One hundred and twenty-five prisoners and 
22 machine-guns were captured in Bray-sur-Somme, as well as a large 
dump of timber and ammunition and three loaded trains which were taken 
in the railway sidings. 

To the north of the Australians the troops of the 47th and 12th Divisions 
advanced without difficulty, except in the centre, east of the Filiform 
Tree, where, as on the 22nd, the attack was at first held up by a strong 
post of the enemy. It was not until the operations had been in progress 
for two hours that the hostile artillery fire became at all heavy, but, from 
3 a.m. until 8 a.m., the ridge east of the Happy Valley was heavily shelled 
with high explosive and gas shell. At 8 a.m., the enemy laimched a strong 
counter-attack, the concentration for which was luckily observed by one 
of our aeroplanes and at once reported. Our artillery promptly responded 
to the call, and, with the aid of the scout aeroplanes which were patrolling 
in the neighbourhood, and which attacked the enemy with bombs and 
machine-guns, the counter-attacking troops were overwhelmed before 
they could approach our lines. 

Further north the troops of the 12th Division succeeded in capturing 
the hamlet of Becordel-Becourt, and established themselves without 
difficulty on the high ground south-east of the village. Working in con- 
junction with the right of the V Corps, whose first objectives were Ovillers- 
la-Boisselle and La Boisselle, the 18th Division advanced against Chapes 
spur. By 5 a.m. it had captured the spur and thrown out a defensive 
flank facing south, north of Becourt Wood. The La Boisselle crater, 
which had been blown on the first day of the Battle of the Somme over 
two years before, afforded the enemy a strong locahty of which he made 



84 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY [August 24th 

full use. He held on to this position until 8 p.m., when a brilliant 
attack by the 8th Royal Berkshire finally dislodged him, and resulted 
in the capture of 250 prisoners and several machine-guns. During the 
day strong patrols " mopped up " Becourt Wood, and cleared the northern 
end of Sausage Valley in conjunction with the 38th Division. 

During the morning there were signs that the enemy was about to begin 
a general withdrawal north of the Somme. He evacuated the commanding 
position on the ridge east of the Filiform Tree, which had been the cause 
of so much trouble to the 12th Division during the early hours of the 
morning. Patrols of this division then occupied the position and pushed 
forward several hundred yards beyond it, thereby reducing to a certain 
extent the sharp salient formed by the advance of the 47th Division east 
of the Happy Valley, 

During the fighting from August 22nd to August 24th the enemy 

had on the whole offered a stout resistance to our advance. On the 

The situation on the 22nd portions of three divisions participated in the 

Fourth Army front on coxuiter-attack, which resulted in the recapture by the 

the night of August 24th enemy of the Happy Valley. It also transpired that 

the attack of the 18th Division in the vicinity of the Sausage Valley, on 

the morning of the 24th, had forestalled by one hour a counter-attack by 

detachments of three German divisions, the object of which was the 

recapture of Tara Hill. This resistance, at first sight, naturally conveyed 

the impression that the enemy contemplated making a determined 

stand. 

Throughout the three days' fighting, however, no new hostile divisions 
had been identified, and the enemy's reinforcements were all drawn from 
those divisions which had been already engaged in the battle since August 
8th. This, combined with the fact that aeroplane photographs taken on 
August 22nd disclosed new trenches on the eastern side of the Somme 
south of Falvy and north from Voyennes,^ and also a report from the 
French further south that digging was in progress east of the Canal du 
Nord between Noyon and Nesle, proved fairly conclusively that the 
enemy contemplated a retirement to Peronne, and that the resistance 
offered was only of a temporary character, to stem our advance until his 
defensive preparations coxild be completed. 

During August 24th, after the failure of the German counter-attack 
east of the Happy Valley, there were more and more signs of demoralisa- 
tion amongst the enemy's troops north of the Somme. The pressure of 
the Third and Fourth Armies was evidently too strong, and, if it could be 
increased, or even maintained without relaxation, there was every reason 
to believe that the enemy's arrangements for an orderly retirement 
behind the line of the Somme could be upset, and that he would be com- 
pelled to retreat before they were complete. Consequently, in accordance 
with tne policy contained in Sir Douglas Haig's instructions, which appear 
at the beginning of this chapter,^ orders were issued that all formations 
should spare no effort to harass the enemy's withdrawal, and should allow 
him no respite. 

' North-east and east of Nesle respectively. 
^ See note to page 72. 




I 
i- 

GO 



o 

< 

o 

w 
-) 

cq 



W 

H 

< 

CO 

< 






o 
o 
« 

< 

H 
<; 
z 

u 

o 
z 

H 
< 
►J 

h 
< 
OS 
O 
Z 
O 

u 



1-1 

u 

o 

Q 



<^ 




o 
o 



x; 

o 



Q 
Z 
< 

o 

z 

< 
o 



August 25th] THE ADVANCE TO PERONNE 85 

South of the Somme, the night of August 24th was remarkable for a 

very heavy hostile concentration of gas shell fired on the front of the 

The readjustment of Australian Corps. It was particularly severe on gullies 

the Australian Corps and woods, and on the extreme right in the vicinity of 

iront south ol the Lihons. This bombardment came at a most unfortunate 

omme time, as the XXXVI French Corps was in process of 

relieving the 4th Canadian Division south of Lihons, and the 4th Australian 

Division on a portion of their front between Lihons and Lihu. Moreover, on 

the same night the 32nd Division was extending its front southwards as far 

as Lihu, thus releasing the whole of the 4th Australian Division from the 

line. The unavoidable movement of troops, consequent on these reliefs, 

led to a large number of casualties both amongst the French troops and 

in the 4th Australian Division. The gas concentration was unusually 

dense and drifted over the area of the 32nd Division, which also suffered 

a number of casualties. 

On relief, the 4th Canadian Division was concentrated in the Longueau 
area and quitted the Fourth Army on August 27th. The whole Canadian 
Corps had now left the army. By its determination and gallantry 
it had taken a large share in the successes of the Fourth Army on 
August 8th and during the following days. The Fourth Army's loss was, 
however, the First Army's gain, and the Canadians later took a prominent 
part in our successes further north. 

In accordance with the general plan of operations, the advance of 

the Fourth Army was continued on August 25th north of the Somme 

August 25th; the cap- in conjunction with that of the Third Army, 

ture of Ceylon Wood while the troops south of the river contented them- 

and Fncourt selves with improving their positions and preparing 
for a further advance. 

At 2.30 a.m. the III Corps, with the 3rd Australian Division on its 
right, advanced without any preliminary bombardment or creeping barrage ; 
the artillery, when called upon to do so, supporting the infantry by engaging 
fleeting targets and centres of resistance. The 3rd Australian Division, 
advancing on a two-brigade front, met with little resistance as the infantry 
climbed the open slopes of the Bray-sur-Somme spur, on the eastern edge of 
which stands Ceylon Wood, until the old trench system on its crest was 
reached. Here small parties of the enemy endeavoured for a short time 
to check the advance, but by dawn the ridge had been gained, and a 
position established along the top of the cliffs overlooking the river north- 
east of Cappy, and along the western edge of Ceylon and Trigger woods. 
North of the Australians the 58th Division, advancing on a front of two 
brigades, and the 12th Division on a front of one brigade, although 
slightly delayed at the start by the heavy ground mist, met with little 
opposition on the plateau south-west of Carnoy and Mametz, but the 58th 
Division was checked opposite Billon Wood. Further north again the 
18th Division, advancing on a two-brigade front, and in touch mth the 
38th Division of the Third Army, made good progress. The Fricourt mine 
craters were taken soon after daylight by the 18th Division, and, by 10 a.m., 
patrols had cleared Fricoiart and Bottom Wood and were approaching 
Mametz Wood, the scene of so much hard fighting in July, 1916. There 



86 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY [August 25th 

was now no doubt that the enemy was in full retreat along the whole of 
the front north of the Somme, and was retiring in bounds protected by 
rearguards. The enemy's artillery activity was limited to the fire of a 
few long-range high-velocity guns firing at extreme range, which harassed 
some of the forward roads, and to that of a small number of field guns 
which he employed to support his rearguards. These guns were well 
handled and, firing over open sights from the many small woods that 
are scattered over the area, caused our infantry considerable trouble. 
The advance, however, pressed on, and Billon Wood was captured by the 
173rd Brigade. By nightfall our line had also been advanced east of 
Mametz and along the eastern edge of Mametz Wood, whence it was con- 
tinued by the 38th Division. During the day over 500 prisoners were 
captured. 

In conjunction with the advance north of the Somme, the left brigade 
of the 1st Australian Division moved forward at 4 p.m. under cover of an 
artillery barrage. Considerable opposition was encountered, but the line was 
advanced to a depth of approximately 500 yards, between Chuignes and 
the river. 

At this stage of the operations the withdrawal of the enemy's giins 
and transport over the shell-crater zone of the old Somme battlefield was 
restricted to a few roads, all of which, as well as the 
Our artillery policy crossings over the Somme, which were not numerous, 
were well known to us. South of the river the main 
road junctions which the enemy was obliged to use were those at Villers 
Carbonnel, Barleux, and Herbecourt, while those north of the river were 
at Clery-sur-Somme, Maurepas, and Combles. The main river crossings were 
at Peronne, Brie, and St. Christ. These road junctions and crossings, 
therefore, were kept constantly under the fire of our long-range guns, 
both 6-inch and 60-pdrs. The gims were pushed well forward regardless 
of risk, in one instance to the extent of coming under machine-gun fire, 
and the roads were shelled with shrapnel and high explosive with 
instantaneous fuses .^ The success achieved by this policy was afterwards 
apparent by the number of dead horses and abandoned vehicles on the 
roadside. 

On the left of the Fourth Army, as the result of the continued pressure 
of the Third Army from Albert to Neuville-Vitasse (south-west of Arras), 
The enemy's retirement the enemy became very disorganised and began to 
in front of the Third withdraw on August 24th. The troops of the Third 
^^™*y Army pursued the enemy with untiring energy, forcing 

back his rearguards step by step. By the evening of the 25th a con- 
siderable advance had been realised, and the villages of Contalmaison, 
Martinpuich, Le Sars, Favreuil, Sapignies, and Behagnies had been 
captured. Bapaume, the immediate objective of the Third Army, was 
strongly defended by the enemy. 

In spite of the fact that some of our troops were becoming exhausted, 
especially those of the III Corps, which had been almost continually 

1 These fuses were used so as to avoid damaging the roads themselves, which would be of 
great importance to us later. 



Ao. 45. 



To fact page 87. 







^cs^s^; 






AUSTRALIANS CLEARING A DUG-OUT NEAR CAl'PY ON AUGUST 26tII. 
B\ kind iMriiiissioii of i/.'c .■liisiruli<iii Gmcruiiiciii. 

A(/. 4(1. 




MONTAUBAN 



lirilish OJficiiil pbolograph 



August 26th] THE ADVANCE TO PERONNE 87 

engaged under difficult conditions since Augiist 6th, there was no 
wish or intention to relax the pressure, as all ranks 

'^ugusTsfith' ^^^^^ imbued with the determination to pursue the 
beaten enemy. 

Immediately south of the Somme the 1st Australian Division resumed 
the advance at 6 a.m. on August 26th with strong fighting patrols. 
Batteries of field artillery were pushed well forward to support the advance, 
and were chiefly employed in dealing with machine-guns. By clever use 
of the groimd the 2nd Brigade secvired the woods east of Chuignes, and 
reached the western outskirts of Fontaine-les-Cappy. On the left the 
village of Cappy was cleared by the 3rd Brigade, and by nightfall the line 
had been advanced 2,000 yards east of the village. Further south an 
attempt, made by troops of the same division, to advance astride the 
Amiens-Brie road was not successful, as Foucaucourt was strongly defended 
by machine-guns which had been well sited with an admirable all-round 
field of fire. 

Meanwhile, north of the river, the III Corps and the 3rd Australian 
Division had not been idle. During the night and early morning the 
Australians advanced in conjunction with the 58th Division, and by 
8.30 a.m. had captured Suzanne. The enemy made little attempt to 
check the advance against the village itself, but, when our patrols 
debouched from its eastern outskirts, they encountered heavy fire from 
the machine-guns posted on the high ground on the east of, and over- 
looking, the village. During the afternoon, however, the enemy was 
driven back from this position after some hard fighting, in which forty 
prisoners were captured and over a hundred Germans killed. The 3rd 
Australian Division then established its line forward of the crest of the 
ridge which runs from the west of Vaux Wood to Maricourt. 
Further north the three divisions of the III Corps moved forward at the 
same hour as the Australians. Each division employed one brigade as 
advanced guard, one in support, and one in reserve. The 58th Division 
was directed on Maricourt and Support Copse, the 12th Division on the 
Maltz Horn Farm knoll (north of Hardecoiu-t-aux-Bois), and the 18th 
Division on Trones Wood. At first the enemy's resistance was fairly 
strong, but it was apparent that our troops were only being opposed 
by rearguards. On the right the 58th Division advanced to within some 
500 yards of Maricourt ; in the centre the 12th Division captured Carnoy ; 
and on the left the 18th Division gained possession of ]\Iontauban together 
with sixty prisoners. The enemy defended this village successfully with 
machine-guns, imtil the advance of the 38th Division on the left enabled the 
machine-gunners of the 18th Division to bring their fire on to Montauban 
from Marlboro' Wood. This flanking fire was of the greatest assistance 
to the infantry, and the prisoners asserted that it made retreat impossible. 

After the capture of Montauban, the 18th Division prepared to 
advance with the 55th Brigade as advanced guard. Patrols approached 
Bernafay Wood, but, when the enemy was found to be holding the 
wood in considerable strength, it was decided to establish an out- 
post line east of Montauban, and to attack Bernafay and Trones woods 



88 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY [August 2©rH 

the next morning. Meanwhile, the 58th and 12th Divisions were unable 
to make any further progress, and in the evening formed an outpost line 
west of Maricourt and east of Carnoy.^ 

Since August 22nd the artillery activity of the enemy had fluctuated 

considerably, but, as a general rule, the volume of fire was never great 

and conveyed the impression that the Germans were 

^hostiie*artmer*y^ employing comparatively few guns, the fire of which 

was continuous and distributed over a wide front. 

The successful attack of the Australian Corps south of the river on 

August 23rd necessitated the withdrawal of the enemy's batteries to the 

east of Cappy, and into the wooded district north-west and south of 

Estrees. After the attack, his high-velocity guns were particularly 

active and harassed our forward communications assiduously, whilst 

any attempt we made to advance provoked fairly heavy retaliation, but 

more during the later than during the initial stages of the attack. 

From August 24th to 26th the fire of the enemy's guns increased 
considerably south of the Somme, in which part of the battlefield his 
field artillery was well distributed in depth.^ During this retirement 
there were three noticeable features in the tactics employed by the 
Germans in the withdrawal of their artillery. First, a retrograde move- 
ment of the guns was usually prefaced by an intense bombardment, 
doubtless for the purpose of using up all the ammunition dumped near 
the artillery positions. Secondly, the withdrawal of the field guns was 
covered by the increased activity of the high-velocity and heavy guns, 
and "vice versa." Lastly, the bold and skilful handling of sections and 
single guns, by which they essayed to cover the retirement of the infantry 
and to delay oiu" pursuit. This last feature was well illustrated on August 
25th and 26th when our infantry, advancing towards Maricourt and 
astride the Somme, met with considerable opposition from field guns firing 
from the copses and woods which abotmd in this area. On this occasion 
trench mortars in some cases kept up the bombardment after the field 
guns had been withdrawn. 

The successful advance of the 1st Australian Division against Cappy 

on August 26th concluded, for the time being, the operations of this 

August 27th ; the division, and on the night of August 26th it was relieved 

renewal of the pressure by the 5th and 2nd Australian Divisions. On com- 

south of the Somme pletion of the relief the front of the Australian Corps, 

south of the river, was held as follows : the 32nd Division from Lihu to 

south of Foucaucourt ; the 5th Australian Division from south of Foucau- 

court to Fontaine-les-Cappy, exclusive of the village ; the 2nd Australian 

Division from Fontaine-les-Cappy inclusive to the Somme. Each division 

held the front line with one brigade, and kept one brigade in support 

and one in reserve. The Australian Corps, in order to maintain 

continuous pressure on the enemy and to avoid heavy losses, decided to 

carry forward the advance with strong fighting patrols. These tactics 

' From prisoners captured during the day it was ascertained that the enemy had reinforced 
the front opposite the III Corps with three new divisions, the 2nd Guard, the 87th, and the 232nd, 
which had not been previously engaged in the battle. 

2 The sound-ranging sections located the German field artillery in positions from 2,000 to 
8,000 yards behind the front line. 



August 27th] THE ADVANCE TO PERONNE 88 

were begun at da-wn on the morning of August 27th, and considerable 
progress was made, as in many parts of the front the enemy's forward 
positions were found to have been vacated. 

On the right of the AustraUan Corps the First French Army had 
received indications from prisoners and other sources that the enemy 

The co-operaHon oi the contemplated a general retirement opposite its front. 

First French Army with In consequcncc, in Order to anticipate the enemy's 
the Australian Corps -withdrawal, the First French Army pushed forward 
along its whole front simultaneously with the Axistralian Corps. South 
of Chaulnes the enemy's resistance was slight, and Roye was captured 
without difficulty. Chaulnes itself, however, which, up to the beginning of 
the Battle of Amiens, had been one of the enemy's most important railheads 
in this area, was strongly defended, and all attempts to capture it during 
August 27th failed. Some progress was made north of Chaulnes by the 
French in conjunction with the 32nd Division, and, although the enemy 
offered determined resistance, most of the woods north of Chaulnes were 
captured during the afternoon. The 32nd Division also gained possession 
of Vermandovillers. 

The patrols of the 8th Brigade of the 5th Australian Division were 
checked at the outset of their advance by the fire of machine-guns holding 
the trenches round Foucaucourt. The artillery at once placed a heavy 
concentration on the trenches and on the ruins of the village, while the 
infantry of the 8th Brigade enveloped it under cover of the bombard- 
ment, and forced the enemy to surrender. Thirty-five prisoners and 
sixteen machine-guns were captured in Foucaucourt. Meanwhile, the 6th 
Brigade, which was the advanced guard brigade of the 2nd Australian 
Division, also encountered some resistance ; machine-guns, hidden in a 
small wood, caused a temporary cheek. By evening, however, the 
Australian patrols had penetrated to within a few hundred yards of 
Dompierre and Frise, and had gained touch with the 3rd Australian 
Division on the river just north of Vache Wood. As the result of 
the day's fighting the Australian Corps south of the Somme held the 
general line Vermandovillers-Foucaucourt-Fontaine-les-Cappv- Vache 
Wood. 

North of the river some troops of the 3rd Australian Division advanced 

during the night, and, by 3 a.m. on August 27th, had secured Vaux Wood 

V nts north th ^"^ ^^^ ^^^ south of the village of Vaux, thereby 

*^'^SoLme ° ® obtaining observation up the valley of the Somme 

almost as far as Peronne. Long-range machine-gun 

fire from the direction of Maricourt had been the chief difficulty with which 

the Australians had to contend, but heavy casualties were avoided by 

the skilful manner in which company and platoon commanders selected 

covered lines of advance. 

At 8 a.m. the 11th Australian Brigade, co-operating with the 58th 
Division on its left, pushed forward along the bank of the river towards^ 
Fargny Mill.^ The mill was captured during the morning, but the enemy, 

' It was during these operations that Lee.-Corp. Bernard Gordon, 41st Battalion, 
captured, almost single-handed, 2 officers, 61 other ranks, and 6 machine-guns. See Appendix E„ 

N 



90 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY [August 27th 

supported by fire from the high ground to the north, still held on to the 
greater portion of Fargny Wood. 

Meanwhile, the advance of the III Corps met with varying success. 
Against an opposition which was never inconsiderable, the 58th and 12th 
Divisions pressed forward some 4,000 yards, and captured Maricourt and 
the important Maltz Horn Farm knoll after strenuous fighting. 

On the left the 18th Division found itself faced for a second time 

with the problem of capturing Bernafay and Trones woods. ^ When 

The capture of Trones Sir Alec Godley issued instructions for the attack on 

Wood by the 18th these woods, it was believed that the high ground 

Division round Longueval and Delville Wood was in the hands 

of the 38th Division, and that in consequence the left flank of the attack 

would be secure. Maj.-Gen. Lee, therefore, planned that the attacking 

troops shovild advance along the northern divisional boundary ^ on a front 

of about 1,000 yards, and that, after reaching the eastern edge of the 

northern portion of Trones Wood, they should turn southwards and clear 

the remainder of Bernafay and Trones woods from the north. 

At 4.45 a.m. the artillery barrage opened, and the 8th Royal Berkshire 
and the 7th Royal West Kent of the 53rd Brigade, which had formed up 
without difficulty, advanced. Almost immediately the former battalion 
was taken in flank by machine-gvm fire from the Longueval ridge, not- 
withstanding which, the attacking troops gallantly pressed on and, despite 
severe losses, secured the northern portion of Trones Wood. 

Two companies, which had been detailed previously for the task, 
then wheeled to the south, and, advancing through Bernafay Wood and 
the southern portion of Trones Wood, cleared the whole of these woods 
and the intervening ground. Unfortunately the left flank south of 
Longueval was so weakened by casualties, that an immediate counter- 
attack by the enemy at about 6.30 a.m., from the direction of Delville 
Wood, forced our troops out of the northern portion of Trones Wood. 
This was followed, about an hour later, by a heavy counter-attack against 
the southern portion of Trones Wood by a fresh battalion, belonging to 
the 2nd Guard Division, which had been brought forward during the 
night of August 26th. This counter-attack succeeded in forcing ovir 
troops out of Trones Wood, but, thanks to the gallantry of the officers and 
men of the 53rd Brigade, it was checked west of the wood. 

Owing to our losses and the intermingling of units, an immediate 
counter-attack to recover the lost ground was considered inadvisable, 
preparations were, however, at once put in hand for a deliberate counter- 
attack to be made with adequate artillery support. From 7.30 p.m. to 8 p.m. 
a bombardment with artillery of all calibres was placed on the southern 
portion of Trones Wood, and a well-planned attack was launched at 
8 p.m. by a force of two composite companies of infantry, formed from all 
three battalions of the 53rd Brigade, under the commander of the 8th 
Royal Berkshire. The wood was strongly defended by a battalion of the 
Emperor Francis Joseph's Prussian Guards. A bloody hand-to-hand 

' In July, 1916, the 18th Division had taken a prominent part in the capture of these localities. 
' This boundary ran approximately due west and east through the Quarry just north of Trones 
Wood. 



August 28th] THE ADVANCE TO PERONNE 91 

conflict ensued, which resulted in the gallant survivors of the 53rd Brigade 
emerging from the eastern edge of Trones Wood, tired but victorious. 
In clearing the wood of its battle debris over 50 of the enemy's dead and 
40 machine-guns were found, and, in addition, 73 prisoners were captured.^ 
By this time the 38th Division, on the left of the 18th Division, had 
advanced to the Longueval \yindmill and the western edge of Delville 
Wood, thus securing the left flank of the 18th Division in Trones Wood. 

During the night of August 27th the 53rd Brigade, somewhat 
exhausted after its successful exertions during the day, was relieved by 
the 54th Brigade. No advance was made by the 18th Division on August 
28th, and the 38th Division on the left also had a brief rest. 

Although the Australian Corps and the III Corps needed no urging 

or encouragement, orders were issued on the evening of August 27th for 

the advance to be continued on the 28th. The Aus- 

Augnirasth tralian Corps was given Peronne, and the III Corps 

Bouchavesnes and St. Pierre Vaast Wood, as objectives. 

Early in the morning of the 28th the First French Army, on the right 
of the Australian Corps, entered Chaulnes and, pressing vigorously forward, 
forced the enemy to withdraw more rapidly than he intended, with the 
result that by midday he was in full retreat along the whole front from 
Noyon to Chatdnes. The French, taking advantage of the enemy's 
confusion, pushed forward cavalry patrols, which succeeded in reaching 
the Somme south of Epenancourt. Attempts to capture Noyon failed 
on the 28th, but, on the following day, the enemy's resistance ceased, 
and the town was entered. On the evening of the 28th the First French 
Army was established along the general line of the Canal du Nord from 
the north of Noyon as far as Rouy-le-Grand, thence along the western 
bank of the Somme to Epenancourt. ^ 

In conjunction with the rapid advance of the First French Army on 
the 28th, the 32nd Division pushed patrols forward at dawn, and, meeting 
with little resistance, occupied Ablaincourt, Soyecourt, and Deniecourt. 
During the afternoon, however, opposition was encountered north of 
Marchelpot, and at Berny-en-Santerre. This opposition grew stronger 
towards dusk, and it became apparent that the 32nd Division would be 
unable to advance further that evening without incurring considerable 
casualties. Consequently an outpost line was established east of Gener- 
mont and west of Berny-en-Santerre, while the French formed a flank 
facing north from Epenancourt to Marchelpot. 

Fvuiher north the 5th and 2nd Australian Divisions were more 
stubbornly opposed, but, by dint of vigorous exploitation, they had realised 
a big advance by the end of the day. On the right, the 5th Australian 
Division moved forward, with the 8th Brigade as advance guard, and 
gained touch with the enemy's rearguards early in the morning. The 
enemy withdrew behind a screen of machine-guns, supported by some 

1 Although not of such long duration as in July, 1916, the struggle for Trones Wood had been 
no less bitter. It was a commanding position, giving good observation overthe country to the 
eastward, which the enemy could iU afford to lose ; its occupation by us, together with that of the 
important knoll to the south of it, was of great tactical importance. 

' The Canal du Nord runs from Noyon to Nesle. It is not shown on Map 2, but the northern 
end of it, near Nesle, is shown on Map 4. 



92 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY [August 28th 

cyclists. The village of Fay soon fell into our hands, and the line moved 
steadily forward until the outskirts of Estrees were reached. The 
resistance stiffened momentarily in front of this place, but it was overcome 
by 1.45 p.m.i A general line was then established in some old trenches 
east of Estrees, where, owing to the broken nature of the country and the 
maze of trenches and wire, a temporary halt was made, while patrols 
moved forward to reconnoitre the ground towards Belloy-en-Santerre. 
The advance was resumed later in the afternoon, and the infantry, although 
the men were beginning to show signs of fatigue, pressed on and, by 
9 p.m., had captured Assevillers. The advance was checked in front of 
Belloy-en-Santerre by machine-gun fire from the copses west and north- 
west of the village, and, as it was by this time almost pitch dark, an outpost 
line was formed south-west and west of Belloy-en-Santerre and east of 
Assevillers. 

On the left of the 5th Australian Division the 2nd Australian Division 
advanced on Dompierre and Frise. Although the enemy offered some resist- 
ance at Dompierre and at Triangular Wood, he was quickly driven out of 
these places, and two field guns were captured in the village. On the 
extreme left, the advancing infantry met with strong opposition at the 
village of Frise, but, after half an hour's intense bombardment by the 
field artillery, the village was captured. The maze of trenches west of 
Mereaucourt Wood again, however, held up the advance, and the clearing 
of these trenches and the wood took some time ; eventually the wood 
was surrounded and captured with 50 prisoners and 15 machine-guns. 
Meanwhile, patrols on the right of the division had occupied Becquincourt, 
and had advanced over 1,000 yards beyond the village. Our line was 
finally established for the night west of Herbecourt and along the eastern 
edge of Mereaucourt Wood. 

The 3rd Australian Division, which had pushed on to Curlu and the 
marshy reaches of the Somme to the south of that village, finally cleared 
the peninsula north of Frise and established an outpost line on the high 
ground east of Curlu. On the left of the 3rd Australian Division the 
58th and 12th Divisions pushed forward strong fighting patrols to secure 
Hardecourt-aux-Bois. The enemy defended the ruins of this village 
stubbornly ; it was, however, eventually surrounded and captured after a 
severe struggle, and the high ground north and south of the village was 
also secured. 

Considerable progress had been made on the front of the Fourth Army 
during the day, and the general impression was that the opposition, which 
in the south was weak, gradually stiffened towards the north. The 
enemy, it seemed, intended to hold a bridgehead about Peronne as long 
as possible, in order to enable him to withdraw the accumulation of guns 
and transport, which had been gradually pressed into the angle formed by 
the bend of the river, and to allow of more time for the destruction of 
all the crossings over the Somme at and near Peronne. 

The advance was resumed along the whole front of the army during 
the night of the 28th, and early in the morning of the 29th. On the 

1 During this advance an 8-inch howitzer was captured in Touffu Wood, and a train con- 
sisting of 20 carriages and 30 trucks was secured intact in the valley north of the wood. 



Shub Ma. n (« fatt patt D.I 



Mdik M- Uuf niin Mnai and i^ 




i- ^'^^fX . 



-"N.^ 



PERONXE and MONT ST. QUENTIN frum LA MAISONETTE. 



^ 



August 29th] THE ADVANCE TO PERONNE 93 

extreme right, the enemy's resistance was neghgible, and the 32nd 
Division gained the western bank of the Somme without experiencing any 
_- t f A t difficulty, effecting a junction with the First French 

29th ; our troops Army about 1,000 yards south of Cizancourt. On the 
reach the banks of the left of the 32nd Division the 5th Australian Division 
Somme south oiP6ronne(.j^pt^red Belloy-en-Santerrc, Villers Carbonnel, and 
Barlevix without opposition, but was checked for a short time by machine- 
guns defending the high ground overlooking Eterpigny on the west. 
It was evident that this was only a temporary stand, made to cover the 
retreat of the last remnants of the enemy across the river, for by 9.20 a.m. 
our patrols had gained the river bank, and had some good shooting at the 
last parties of the enemy as they crossed the river. Not to be restrained, 
a strong patrol of the 8th Australian Brigade set out in pursuit and crossed 
the canal at Eterpigny, returning with 20 prisoners. Operating imme- 
diately south of the Somme, the 2nd Australian Division continued the 
advance. On the right the 6th Brigade, although the men were suffering 
from physical fatigue and want of sleep, had captured Herbecourt and 
Flaucourt by 7.30 a.m. The 7th Brigade then passed through and 
advanced on La Chapelette and Biaches. On the left the 5th Brigade 
occupied Feuilleres. 

The Somme was a formidable obstacle, and, if the Germans succeeded 
in retiring across it and destroying the bridges after them, we should be 
confronted with great difficulties before bridgeheads could be established 
on the eastern bank. East of the general line Flaucourt-Feuilleres, 
moreover, the ground fell away to the river both to the north and the 
east, and all movement east of this line could be observed from 
Mont St. Quentin and from the high ground east and south-east 
of Peronne, while the terrain was a maze of old trenches and ■ware. These 
factors added to the difficulties of forcing a passage at this point. ^ 
There was just a possibility that, by following close on the enemy's heels 
and taking advantage of his confusion, a crossing might be made over one 
or more of the existing bridges before the enemy had time to destroy 
them. Sir John INIonash and Maj.-Gen. Rosenthal knew well the impor- 
tance placed by the Army Commander on securing the bridges intact, 
and the 2nd Australian Division made a determined attempt to force a 
passage without delay before the bridges could be destroyed. The 7th 
Brigade on the right was given as its objective the high ground south-east 
of Peronne, and the 5th Brigade on the left the Mont St. Quentin heights. 
Two battalions of the latter brigade were to attempt to cross the river 
west of Halle, while the remaining two battahons were to cross by the 
causeway in the river bend at Ommiecovu-t-les-Clery. 

On the right the 7th Brigade gained the canal bank by 9.30 a.m., 
meeting with only slight resistance at La INIaisonette from machine-guns 

1 Every detail of the ground round Peronne on both banks of the river was known to the 
commander and staff of the Fourth Army. 

The Fourth Army had fought over the same ground during the early spring of 1917, and the 
same problem of how to force a crossing had confronted Sir Henry Rawlinson when the Germans 
began their retreat to the Hindenburg Line in March of that year. The first troops to reach 
the eastern bank on that occasion had been those of the 48th Division. They had secured Biaches 
and La Maisonette, and then, forcing a crossing where the embankment of the Canal du Nord 
crosses the Somme south-west of Halle, had seized Mont St. Quentin. 



94 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY [August 29th 

which were covering the enemy's withdrawal across the river. Small 
parties on the left of the brigade worked round behind these machine-guns, 
causing the enemy to abandon his guns and make a rapid retirement. 
Our patrols found all the crossings blo\vn up except the railway bridge 
at La Chapelette. Repeated attempts were made to force a crossing at 
this point, but they were all unsuccessful on account of the enemy's machine- 
gun fire ; at 2.30 p.m. the enemy succeeded in blowing up the bridge, and 
further attempts to cross at this point had to be abandoned. On the left 
the 5th Brigade met with no more success. Encoiintering little resistance 
in the advance to the canal, three companies of the 18th Battalion crossed 
the canal by means of the footbridge of the lock at the bend in the canal 
south-west of Ommiecourt-les-Clery, and had established themselves on 
the northern bank by 9 a.m. South of this point all crossings on the 
brigade front were destroyed. The 18th Battalion attempted to push 
forward, but was unable to make any progress owing to heavy machine- 
gun fire from Ommiecourt-les-Clery, Clery-sur-Somme, and the high 
ground east of the latter village. Consequently, it was decided to make 
no further attempt to continue the advance, until Clery-sur-Somme 
had been captiired by troops operating on the northern bank of the 
river. 

In the meantime, north of the Somme the 3rd Australian Division, 
advancing in conjunction with the 58th Division on the right of the III 
Corps, had cleared the broken groiuid in the vicinity of Hem, but was 
held up on the ridge west of Clery-sur-Somme by the enemy's vigorous 
machine-gun fire. Further north the troops of the III Corps realised 
a considerable advance during the day. In the vicinity of Maurepas 
the opposition offered by the enemy's rearguards checked the advance 
of the 58th and 12th Divisions for some time. Maurepas itself was 
ultimately cleared after some stiff fighting, but the enemy, who held 
Le Forest in strength, prevented our making any further progress. 
On the extreme left the 18th Division moved steadily forward 
throughout the day in co-operation with the 38th Division of the 
Third Army. Guillemont was captured, and, after a short struggle, 
our line advanced to the eastern outskirts of Combles. Strong 
nests of machine-guns in the vicinity of Priez Farm for the time being 
rendered a further advance impossible. 

During the evening and early part of the night the enemy's resistance 
west of Clery-siur-Somme slackened, and by 10 p.m. the village was in 
our hands, except for a few houses on the eastern edge. The enemy 
counter-attacked several times during the night, and the eastern portion of 
the village changed hands several times. 

During the 29th the Third Army had made good progress and had 
captured Bapaume. 

On the morning of August 30th the attack north of the river by 

the 3rd Australian Division was continued. On the right the enemy's 

The advance north of resistance was strong enough to prevent our infantry 

the Somme on August from advancing beyond the limits of Clery-sur-Somme 

30th until the evening. On the left, however, less resistance 

was encountered and satisfactory progress was made. The line was 




p 

n 

P 

'73 



Q 
z 
< 

z 
z 

o 

0, 



August soth] THE ADVANCE TO PERONNE 95 

eventually advanced to Clery Copse and to the western edge of Road 
Wood. 

At dawn on the 30th the 58th and 47th Divisions^ resumed the 
advance on the right of the III Corps. The 58th Division advanced to 
the western edge of Marrieres Wood, meeting with more and more vigorous 
opposition as the advance progressed, and an unsuccessful attempt to 
seize the wood about midday showed that the enemy held it in con- 
siderable strength as part of his main line of defence. Similarly, on the 
left the 47th Division pressed forward, meeting increased resistance until 
the line Marrieres Wood-Priez Farm was reached at 7.30 a.m. Patrols 
were pushed forward towards the Bouchavesnes-Rancourt road, but were 
met with machine-gun fire, and were forced to withdraw. Meanwhile, with 
its right held up at Priez Farm, the 18th Division made no attempt to 
advance during the day, but contented itself with consolidating its 
position east of Combles, touch on the left being maintained with the 
V Corps north of Rouleaux Wood. North of the Somme, the enemy's 
defence had hardened considerably.^ 

> The 47th Division relieved the 12th Division in front of Le Forest during the night of 
August 29th. 

2 The action of the Australian Corps south of the Somme on August 30th will be described 
in the next chapter, as it forms an important part of the story of the capture of Mont St. Quentin 
and Peronne. 



CHAPTER VI 

THE BATTLE OF MONT ST. QUENTIN, AUGUST 80tH— SEPTEMBER 2ND, 
AND THE EVENTS OF SEPTEMBER 3RD AND 4TH 

Maps 4, 6, and 7 

The situation on August 30th — The forcing of the river crossing ; the Australian 
Corps plan — First phase ; August 30th ; the seizure of a bridgehead south-east of C16rj'-sur- 
Somme — Second phase ; August 31st ; the attack on Mont St. Quentin by the 5th Australian 
Brigade — The advance of the 6th Australian Brigade — The action of the 3rd Australian 
Division and the III Corps — September 1st ; the attack continued — The 14th Australian 
Brigade enters Peronne — The capture of the village of Mont St. Quentin by the 6th Australian 
Brigade — The advance of the 3rd Australian Division — The operations of the III Corps ; the 
attacks of the 58th and 47th Divisions — The 18th Division attack — The situation on the 
evening of September 1st — September 2nd ; the exploitation of success — The attack of the 
5th Australian Division — The attack of the 2nd Australian Division — The operations of 
the III Corps — The events of September 3rd and 4th — The results of the Battle of Mont 
St. Quentin — The general situation on September 4th. 

Although the Australian Corps had reached the banks of the Somme 
on the whole of its front from St. Christ to Clery-sur-Somme by the evening 

of August 29th, all attempts up to the evening of the 
^^aS^oV 30^h *o secure a bridgehead on the right bank east of 

Clery-sur-Somme had been foiled by the enemy's 
machine-gun defence. Between Marrieres Wood and Morval the III Corps 
had been opposed during the 30th by six divisions, which had maintained 
a resolute resistance. For the first time, moreover, since August 22nd 
distinct signs were noticed that the enemy's batteries were being grouped 
and organised for vigorous defence ; the hostile shelling also had increased. 
It was clear, therefore, that the enemy intended to make a determined 
stand on the line of the Somme as far north as Peronne, and thence along 
the heights of Mont St. Quentin, Fregicourt, and Morval.^ 

• The following order, captured later in the advance, shows that these premises were correct : 

119 Inf. Div. Div. H.Q., 

la No. 4056. Secret. 29/8/18. 

Instructions for the Conduct of the Defence in Winter Positions. 

Fighting will be conducted for the retention of the main line of resistance. All available 
effectives will be employed for this purpose, with the exception of an emergency garrison in the 
artillery protective line, which must not be employed forward of this line. 

In the main line of resistance, the defence must be organised in such a manner as to ensure, 
by means of infantry and machine-gun fire, the prevention of a crossing of the Somme valley 
by the enemy. Single machine-guns (including heavy machine-guns) must be pushed forward 
in front of the main line of resistance to the river bank, so as to have undisputed command of 
the river, especially at favourable crossing places (machine-guns on the banks). The machine- 

96 



irrtb A'e. 4, U /ilrV puf 57- 



Mnnl Si. Qiicniin \Voa<\ 



Mont St. Uucntm Vi1l,.p 



KmiKol Ftu<1l.>u 




MONT ST. QUEXTIN Irum tl,L BAPAL.ME-PEROXM 



/•• ,/'d«.J.,/.j,. 



o 



August 3(>TH] THE BATTLE OF MONT ST. QUENTIN 97 

All the crossings over the river had been destroyed, and the forcing 
of the passage of the river, with its marshes from 400 to 500 yards broad, 
presented a difficult problem. A frontal attack had little chance of 
success, and would in any case be costly against the enemy's machine-gun 
defence. Furthermore, it was doubtful if a sufficiently strong force could 
be passed across to resist the counter-attacks which the enemy would 
undoubtedly deliver against it. 

Sir Henry Rawlinson, therefore, determined to turn the enemy's 
position on the line of the Somme, and to seize the high ground north of 
the Cologne river from Buire Wood to Nurlu. Orders were accordingly 
issued on the evening of August 30th, for the III Corps to attack this 
position from the west, and for the Australian Corps simultaneously to 
force a crossing of the river at as many places as possible at, and north of, 
the Peronne railway bridge. The Australians were then to attack the 
Buire Wood-Nurlu position from the south-west, working up the three 
ridges which ran down to the river from Buire Wood, Aizecourt-le-Haut, 
and Epine de Malassise. South of Peronne the Australian Corps was to 
confine itself to seizing any opportunity that offered of gaining a footing 
on the east bank of the river. As the advance towards the Buire Wood- 
Nurlu position progressed, the Australian Corps, pivoting on Peronne, 
was to form a flank facing south-eastwards along the high ground north 
of the Cologne river. 

The commanding height of Mont St. Quentin, north of Peronne, 
was the key of the position. It was a veritable bastion, the capture of 
which would enable us to enfilade the enemy's positions covering the river 
to the south and threaten the safety of his whole line. If it could be 
seized by a coup de main, not only would the rest of the task given to the 
III and Australian Corps be much simplified, but much time would be 
saved. Time was the ruling factor in the situation. It was of the greatest 
importance that no respite shoidd be given to the enemy's tired troops, 
and that they should be allowed no time in which to improve a position 
of great natural strength, and thus increase the difficulties of an already 
formidable task. 

The position of Mont St. Quentin, however, was an extremely strong 
one, and its slopes, covered with thick belts of \vire and intersected with 
the remains of the old trench systems, afforded great possibilities for a 
stout and prolonged defence. From the ruins of the village on the western 
slope of the hill, the country for a considerable distance lay exposed 

guns in the river bank emplacements must be permanently manned, but should only open fire 
in the event of a hostile attack. SheU-proof emplacements are not necessary ; the chief requisite 
is adequate concealment. 

Patrols must be pushed forward into the Sonmie valley by night, in order to obtain early 
intimation of any attempt on the part of the enemy to cross the river. Attempts by the enemy 
to effect a crossing are to be expected. By skilful patrolling it should be possible to annihilate 
any hostile detachments which may attempt to reconnoitre the conditions of the river valley 
with a view to effecting a crossing, and to bring in prisoners from them. 

The troops must on no account allow themselves to be lulled into a sense of security by the 
fact that the Somme forms an obstacle to the possibilities of an enemy advance. A determined 
enemy will carry out an attack at this point simply for the reason that it is least expected. 

The enemy must be prevented from gaining a foothold on the eastern bank of the Somme 
at all costs. Demolition detachments must be sent out each night until the bridges have been 
thoroughly destroyed, and the remaining portions removed. Portions which cannot be reached 
must be destroyed by medium minenwerfer fire. 

O 



98 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY [August both 

to the enemy's observation and fire. Every movement on the stretch 
of river marsh from Peronne to near Clery-sur-Somme could be observed, 
and the passage of the river presented the same difficulties as it did further 
south. The examination of prisoners revealed that the German High 
Command had issued instructions that the Mont St. Quentin area was to 
be defended at all costs, and, to ensure the position being held, had 
entrusted its defence to the 2nd Guard Division. 

Sir John Monash fully realised the importance of seizing Mont St. 
Quentin at once He had held a conference of his divisional com- 
The forcing of the zanders on the evening of the 29th, and, anticipating 
river crossing ; the his ordcrs, had made his plan. Moreover, some of the 
Australian Corps' plan preliminary moves had been completed. He had decided 
that Mont St. Quentin must be taken from the direction of Clery-sur- 
Somme, and that Peronne could then be captured by troops entering it 
from the north-west. To the 2nd Australian Division was allotted the 
task of atta king Mont St. Quentin, while the capture of Peronne was 
entrusted to the 5th Australian Division. Maj.-Gen. Rosenthal selected 
the 5th Brigade, under Brig.-Gen. E. F. Martin, for the attack on Mont St. 
Quentin, while Maj.-Gen. Hobbs detailed the 14th Brigade, under Brig.- 
Gen. J. C. Stewart, for the capture of Peronne. The operation was 
planned to be undertaken in two phases. The first phase, beginning on 
August 30th, involved the seizure of a bridgehead south-east of Clery-sur- 
Somme by the 5th Brigade, which w^as to move along the north bank of 
the river through the area of the 3i'd Australian Division. The second 
phase comprised the assault of Mont St. Quentin, and the capture of 
Peronne and the high ground east of that town. 

On the night of August 29th the 2nd Australian Division held the 

front from Eterpigny to the bend in the canal south-west of Clery-sur- 

ist phase; August 30th; Sommc with the 7th and 5th Brigades, on the right and 

the seizure of a left respectively. Early on the morning of August 30th 

bridgehead south-east the 17th, 18th, and 20th Battalions of the 5th Brigade 

of cigry-sur-somme ^^^^ withdrawn from the line, and by 7.15 a.m. were 

concentrated near Mereaucourt Wood. Although the withdrawal had been 

carried out in daylight these battalions suffered no casualties. The 19th 

Battalion was left in the line covering the brigade front. 

At 10.30 a.m. the approach march to Clery-stir-Somme began, and 
the column moved off with the 20th Battalion leading, followed by the 
17th and 18th. Crossing the river at Feuilleres, where the bridge had been 
repaired, the column proceeded eastwards along the north bank of the 
river. As it was difficult to ascertain the exact situation in the vicinity 
of Clery-sur-Somme, the troops of the 5th Brigade took the precaution 
of making as much use as possible of the existing trenches. This 
precaution was well repaid, as the enemy was found to be holding the 
trench system north and east of the village. By 9 p.m. these trenches 
had been cleared of Germans, and the 17th Battalion, following 
behind the 20th, debouched from Clery-sur-Somme ; the 18th Battalion 
remained in the village in reserve. In the short time available, it had 
not been possible to arrange a creeping barrage, but artillery fire was 
maintained on areas and objectives selected by the infantry commanders 



Pinvamit pbotafilpt ,Vo, 3, lo jdll pjjf 



' Bapou mc — Pcronna RooH 




MUiNT ST. QUENTIN from the south-west. 



August 31STJ THE BATTLE OF MONT ST. QUENTIN 99 

according to their requirements. The advance progressed satisfactorily, 
and by 10.30 p.m. a hne had been estabhshed in the old trench systems 
from the river near the western end of Limberlost Wood to a point 
south of Berlin Wood— a suitable position from which the attack could 
be launched next morning. During this fighting 120 prisoners and 
7 machine-guns were captured. 

A bridgehead had now been established, and reconnaissances revealed 
that the bridge at Ommiecourt-les-Clery could be made passable for 
troops. This work was immediately put in hand, and the 19th Battalion 
was ordered to cross the river by means of this bridge at 3 a.m. on 
August 31st. 

In order to enable the 2nd and 5th Australian Divisions to carry out 
the second phase of the operations, it was necessary for the frontages 
of these two divisions to be substantially decreased. This was effected 
on the night of August 30th by an extension northwards of the front held 
by the 32nd Division as far as Lamire Farm, and the side-slipping of the 
5th Australian Division as far as Sword Wood. The 6th and 7th Brigades 
of the 2nd Australian Division were concentrated in the old trench system 
south of Mereaucoxu"t Wood and at Flaucourt, and were thus in a position 
to support the operations of the 5th Brigade. The 5th Australian Division 
held its front with the 15th Brigade, and retained the 8th and 14th Brigades 
in readiness for the capture of Peronne. 

In the early hours of August 31st the 19th Battalion crossed 

at Ommiecourt-les-Clery, and by 4 a.m. the 5th Brigade was ready in 

the position from which the attack was to be launched. 

sTst"; ^he^attack^on The 19th Battalion was on the right, the 17th in the 

Mont St. Quentin by Centre, and the 20th on the left ; the 18th Battalion 

the 5th Austeaiian ^yas held in reserve in the eastern portion of Clery- 

rigade (see ap ) gur-Somme. While our troops were assembling, the 

enemy opened machine-gun fire from Park Wood, but this was promptly 

dealt with by a company of the 17th Battalion. 

Supported by five brigades of field artillery and one brigade of heavy 
artillery, the attack started at 5 a.m., the 19th Battalion being directed 
on the trenches between Anvil Wood and Mont St. Quentin village, 
the 17th on Mont St. Quentin village, and the 20th on 
Feuillaucourt. The 19th Battalion made good progress until it reached 
the rising ground south-west of Mont St. Quentin village. Here our men, 
who were on the hne Save Trench-Galatz AUey-Agram Alley, encountered 
heavy machine-gun fire from the direction of Anvil Wood, the Aerodrome, 
and St. Denis. From the two former places hostile field guns were 
also firing at point blank range, and further progress was impossible 
until our artillery could deal with this opposition. The Germans 
made several counter-attacks, which were repulsed, but the 19th 
Battalion suffered considerable casualties from the fire to which 
it was exposed. Meanwhile, the 17th Battalion in the centre had over- 
come all resistance, and at 7 a.m. two of its companies were established 
on its objective east of Mont St. Quentin village. On the left, also, the 
20th Battalion had reached its objective, and had captured Feuillaucourt. 
Only a few of the enemy were found in the ruins of either of 



100 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY [August 31st 

these villages, but large numbers were observed retiring 
eastwards. The attack of the 5th Brigade had evidently come 
as a complete surprise. Unfortunately, on the left of the 5th Brigade, 
the attack of the 3rd Australian Division, which was designed 
to capture the high ground which lies south of Bouchavesnes and just 
west of the Mont St. Quentin-Bouchavesnes road, had been unable to 
progress beyond the first ridge, with the result that a gap existed between 
the 3rd Australian Division and the 20th Battalion which had occupied 
Feuillaucourt. 

Shortly after 7 a.m. a determined counter-attack, preceded by heavy 
shelling and supported by a battery of field artillery, developed against 
the 17th Battalion, which was holding Mont St. Quentin village. The 
main attack was launched from a north-easterly direction, simultaneously 
with a subsidiary attack from east of the village. Our troops sustained 
heavy losses, and, as many of the officers had become casualties, our fine 
was withdrawn to the trench system just west of the Peronne-Bouchavesnes 
road. The enemy launched five successive bombing attacks against our 
new positions, which were all successfully beaten off. At this time the 
situation between Mont St. Quentin and Feuillaucourt was very obscure, 
and at 9 a.m. the 18th Battalion from reserve in Clery-sur-Somme was 
moved up in close support. One of its companies was sent up to reinforce 
the junction of the 17th and 20th Battalions, and two companies to 
reinforce the right flank of the 19th Battalion, which was held up in 
front of Anvil Wood. The opposition from Anvil Wood, however, was 
still very determined, and only a slight advance was realised by the 
reinforcing troops. 

At 11.20 a.m., although the situation between Mont St. Quentin 
village and Feuillaucourt had been cleared up, the 20th Battalion, which 
was holding Feuillaucourt, was still out of touch with the troops of the 
3rd Australian Division on the left. During the afternoon the enemy, 
taking advantage of this gap in our line, worked round the north end 
of the village, and gained a position which threatened the exposed flank 
of the 20th Battalion. As this battalion was subjected to enfilade fire 
from both field guns and machine-guns, it was withdrawn from Feuillau- 
court, and subsequently held the line of Oder Trench, 500 yards west of 
the Peronne-Bouchavesnes road. 

Meanwhile, as the advance of the 5th Brigade had made good progress, 
and the bridgehead had been extended eastwards, the 6th Brigade started 
to move from its concentration area north-east of 
et^AiuteaHan Brigade Herbecourt at 11.30 a.m. with the object of extending 
our gains towards Peronne. The brigade crossed the 
river by a temporary bridge at Buscourt, and, moving along the north bank 
through Clery-sur-Somme, about 4 p.m. advanced in artillery formation 
towards Park Wood and Halle. The 23rd Battalion acted as advanced guard, 
and was followed by the 24th and 21st ; the 22nd was left in reserve west of 
Clery-sur-Somme. Although the advancing troops came under machine- 
gun fire from Prague Trench when passing through Halle and Park Wood, 
the fire was not sufficient to check their advance. By 5 p.m. Fiorina Trench 
was cleared, it was not found possible, however, to effect a junction with the 




z 



3 



z 




< 
z 



■r. 
■r. 






\ 







— H 

r, "1 




z 

w 



o 
S 

z 

2 



o 



3, 



z 

a: 



0. 



> 

O 



z 
z 



< 

H 

CO 

< 



August 31st] THE BATTLE OF MONT ST. QUENTIN 101 

right of the 5th Brigade. One company of the 23rd BattaUon succeeded 
in fighting its way as far as the church north of Ste. Radegonde Wood, 
but was not able to maintain its position there, and withdrew to Fiorina 
Trench. While the advance of the 6th Brigade was in progress, the 
19th Battalion, on the right of the 5th Brigade, had improved its line 
north of Anvil Wood. 

During the morning of the 31st the 14th Brigade of the 5th Australian 
Division also crossed to the north side of the river with a view to carrying 
out the task assigned to it of attacking Peronne from the north-west. It 
was obliged to cross at Buscourt, the Ommiecoui-t-les-Clery crossing having 
by then become impassable owing to the intensity of the hostile artillery 
fire. As, however, the 5th Brigade had not been able to maintain ite 
position east of Mont St. Quentin, it was impossible for the 14th Brigade 
to carry out the operation against Peronne. It was, therefore, concentrated 
in the shelter of the valley east of Clery-sur-Somme, together with two field 
artillery brigades, reaching this position by 8.30 p.m. While this movement 
was being carried out, the enemy's artillery was shelling the area east of 
Clery-sur-Somme and the banks of the Somme to the south unceasingly. 
This did not, however, stop the steady flow of companies moving in Indian 
file to their assembly positions. At one time the bank of the river between 
Clery-sur-Somme and the canal by Lost Ravine swarmed with troops, 
gathered well under the side of the steep bank, playing cards, smoking, 
and waiting for the word to move on. In front of them the shells falUng 
in the river threw up great spouts of water, while behind them, on the 
slopes of the hill, the hostile barrage fell with great regularity and precision, 
but luckily well clear of the thickly packed troops. It was an anxious 
time, although fortunately there were few casualties. 

As the result of the day's fighting our line at 8.30 p.m. was held 
along Fiorina Trench by the 6th Brigade, and thence past the brickworks 
north of Anvil Wood, along Gott Mit Uns Trench, Deus Trench, Elsa 
Trench, IMoineville Alley, and Oder Trench by the 5th Brigade. From 
there to a point on the Canal du Nord east of Freckles Wood, where 
rested the right of the 3rd Australian Division, there was a gap of about 
1,000 yards along the Canal du Nord. 

The attack on Mont St. Quentin by the 5th Brigade, with only hastily 
arranged artillery support and without a creeping barrage, ranks as one 
of the most notable examples of pluck and enterprise during the war. 
Confronted with the task of storming a very strong position defended 
by picked troops, this brigade, comprising only 1,800 fighting troops, 
overcame every difficulty and gained a footing on Mont St. Quentin, which 
it maintained in spite of the enemy's numerous counter-attacks. 

It was a soldiers' battle, throughout which the physique, individuality, 
and bravery of the Australians were always conspicuous. There were 
only about 1,200 men in the three leading battalions when they attacked, 
and it is doubtful if at the end of the day there were more than 600 men 
covering a front of 4,000 yards. Owing to the intense hostile fire, and 
with men so widely scattered, control by company officers was well nigh 
impossible, but the fighting spirit of the men carried them through. 
This spirit is well expressed by the exhortation of an officer who was heard 



102 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY [August sist 

to shout down the hne at a critical moment in the fight " Come on, boys, 
let's do it in the good old ' digger ' fashion." 

On the left of the main operations against Mont St. Quentin, the 
front of attack was extended by the 3rd Australian Division and the 
The action of the 3rd 58th and 47th Divisions of the III Corps. At 5.42 
Australian Division and a.m., forty-two minutcs after the advance of the 5th 
the m Corps Brigade had started, the 10th and 9th Australian 
Brigades on the right and left respectively, with the 11th Brigade in 
support, advanced against the high ground west of the Mont St. Quentin- 
Bouchavesnes road. The 10th Brigade, after reaching the crest of the 
nearest ridge, established itself on the line held by the enemy before 
their big retirement in 1917. It was unable, however, to maintain its 
position on the further crest, with the result that a gap existed ^ between 
its right and the left of the 20th Battalion of the 5th Brigade. The 9th 
Brigade captured Road Wood, crossed the Mont St. Quentin-Bouchavesnes 
road, and captured the important locality of Quarry Farm.^ Later in 
the day the enemy launched a strong counter-attack against this position, 
which drove our troops out of the farm, but the enemy's attack was 
checked at the Old Quarry south of Bouchavesnes. During the day the 
3rd Australian Division captured a large number of guns, the detachments 
of which fought most stubbornly and in many cases were bayoneted at 
their guns. 

At 5.30 a.m., twelve minutes before the advance of the 3rd Australian 
Division began, the troops of the 58th and 47th Divisions of the III Corps 
moved to the attack. The 58th Division had some hard fighting before 
it was able to gain possession of Marrieres Wood, which was stubbornly 
defended. By the evening the division had established a line on the 
high ground west of the Mont St. Quentin-Rancourt road overlooking the 
village of Bouchavesnes. 

The 47th Division was even more successful. Its troops, compara- 
tively fresh after a four days' rest, went straight through and by 8.30 a.m. 
had gained Long Wood, just west of the Mont St. Quentin-Rancourt 
road, with the left of the division thrown back to the eastern edge of 
Arderlu Wood south-west of Priez Farm. Patrols were then pushed for- 
ward towards Rancourt, where the enemy was located holding a trench 
line from north of Bouchavesnes to Priez Farm. A little before noon the 
enemy launched a strong counter-attack down the valley south-west of 
Rancourt ; but this was driven off by rifle and machine-gun fire, except at 
one or two points where a short hand-to-hand encounter took place, which 
ended in oiir favour. The chief feature of the enemy's resistance through- 
out the day was the retaliation from his heavy guns, which shelled the 
whole of the front of the III Corps and the country for some distance in 
the rear. 

On the extreme left flank of the Fourth Army the 18th Division did 
not attempt to advance, as it was known that the enemy was holding the 

1 See page 100. 

* In this attack Private George Cartwright, 33rd Battalion, single-handed, put out of action 
the crew of a machine-gun that was holding up his battalion in Road Wood, and thus enabled the 
advance to be continued. See Appendix E, No. 9. 



September 1ST] THE BATTLE OF MONT ST. QUENTIN 103 

Priez Farm-Fregicourt position in strength ; it was decided to post- 
pone the attack until the next day, when the Third Army would be able 
to co-operate by making a simultaneous attack on Morval. 

The results of the day's fighting had been very satisfactory. Good 
progress had been made in the attempt to turn the enemy's defences on 
the line of the river, and it was felt that, if the initial advantage that had 
been gained could be utilised without delay, the operation would be 
crowned with complete success. 

As is always the case in hand-to-hand fighting, the casualties had 
been heavy, and the 5th Australian Brigade had suffered severely in the 
struggle round Mont St. Quentin. Maj.-Gen. Rosenthal, therefore, 
decided that the 6th Brigade, which had been moved forward during the 
31st in rear of the 5th Brigade, and one battalion of which was holding 
Fiorina Trench, should complete the capture of Mont St. Quentin. On 
the right it was arranged with the 5th Australian Division that the 14th 
Brigade should take over Fiorina Trench during the night, and should 
attack simultaneously in a south-easterly direction so as to clear the area 
west of Peronne and capture the town. On the left the 3rd Australian 
Division and the III Corps were to continue their operations, in co-operation 
with the 38th Division of the Third Army on their left. 

In trench warfare, when there is severe fighting, it is as a rule im- 
possible to locate definitely the exact positions of the leading troops until 
after dark. The battle of the 31st had been no excep- 
a«ack ^'continued ^ *'°"' ^^'^ ^^^ furthest positions reached by our troops 
were not definitely known. Conferences were held by 
the commanders of the 2nd and 5th Australian Divisions about 
10 p.m. on the 31st, at which it was decided to continue the 
attack at 6 a.m. next morning. An earlier hour would have been 
preferred, so that the approach march could be made in the dark, 
but this was impossible, as sufficient warning could not be given to the 
troops. It was nearly midnight before the conferences broke up, and 
in the six hours remaining before " zero " the orders had to reach the 
troops, the troops had to be moved to their starting positions, and artillery 
programmes had to be made out and passed down to batteries. There was 
no time to spare. Luckily, as with Sir John Monash and Maj.-Gen. 
Rosenthal on the 29th, Brig.-Gen. Robertson, commanding the 6th Brigade, 
had anticipated his orders.^ Brig.-Gen. Stewart's arrangements were also 
rapidly made, and during the morning the 14th Australian Brigade moved 
south from its assembly position east of Cl^ry-sur-Somme and took over 
Fiorina Trench from the 23rd Battalion of the 6th Brigade. The last part of 
the approach march was carried out under artillery fire, as the enemy's guns 
opened in reply to the fire of the artillery of the 2nd Australian Division 
which began at 5.30 a.m., half an hoiu- before " zero." The 54th 

1 Originally ordered to be prepared to extend the front of attaek by advancing his brigade 
on the south of the 5th Brigade, Brig.-Gen. Robertson realised during the afternoon that the 
situation would not permit of this plan being carried out. He thought it more likely that he 
would he required to go through the 5th Brigade in the morning and complete the capture of 
Mont St. Quentin village. At 4 p.m., therefore, he met his commanding officers, discussed the 
latter operation with them, and issued warning orders. At midnight when the divisional confer- 
ence broke up, he only had to give his final instructions to his commanding officers, who were 
waiting outside the conference. Several hours were thus saved. 



104 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARIVIY [September 1st 

Battalion assembled with its right on the river without difficulty, but the 
53rd Battalion on its left was unlucky enough to find a portion of Fiorina 
Trench in the enemy's possession. Fierce hand-to-hand fighting ensued 
amidst thick belts of wire and broken ground before the battalion reached 
its •' starting line." The 6th Brigade, which assembled on a two-battalion 
front, the 23rd Battalion on the right and the 24th Battalion on the left, 
had a similar experience. The 23rd Battalion moved across from Fiorina 
Trench, which it had been occupying since the afternoon of the 31st, 
and met with strong opposition in the southern end of Gottlieb Trench, 
which was to be its " starting line " for the attack. The advanced patrols 
of the battalion were held up here by German posts, and the company 
commander of the right company sent off his runner, Pte. MacTier, to 
ascertain the cause of the delay. MacTier worked along the trench until 
he found a German post ; this he bombed, threw the hostile machine-gun 
over the parapet, and killed the crew. Further on he found a second 
post, which he dealt with similarly, but unfortunately, when jumping 
over the parapet to make further investigation, he was killed by a bullet 
from a third post.^ This gallant action considerably assisted the assembly 
of his battalion, which, however, only completed the clearing of the 
trenches a few minutes before " zero." 

There had been no time to arrange for a creeping barrage to cover 
the advance of the infantry, and heavy concentrations of artillery fire 
were, therefore, placed on known and suspected points of enemy resistance, 
this fire being lifted on to fresh targets at fixed times as our advance 
progressed. Four brigades of field artillery south of the Somme supported 
the advance of the 5th Australian Division, while the attack of the 2nd 
Australian Division was supported by five brigades of field artillery north 
of the river, and by three brigades on the south. To each division was 
allotted one brigade of heavy artillery. 

With its right on the Somme, the 14th Brigade moved forward at 
6 a.m., coming immediately under heavy enfilade machine-gun fire from 
the direction of Mont St. Quentin. By 6.45 a.m. the 
B?gad'*e''nt^5t'nne54th BattaHon, having cleared Ste. Rad^gonde village 
and wood without difficulty, had reached the causeway 
leading over the moat surrounding Peronne, which the enemy blew up 
as they retired into the to^vn. On the left the 53rd Battalion, with 
portions of the supporting battalions, which had become involved in the 
fighting near the " starting line," met with considerable opposition from 
the enemy holding Anvil Wood. The " mopping up " of this wood took 
a long time, and was much hampered by machine-gun fire from the direc- 
tion of St. Denis and the Sugar Factory. Quickly grasping the situation, 
three privates of the 53rd Battalion, under heavy artillery and machine- 
gun fire, manned a captured field gun and silenced the machine-guns.^ 
Largely as the result of this gallant action. Anvil Wood was cleared of 

» See Appendix E, No. 33. 

* This gun had previously been captured by Pte. William Currey of the same battalion, 
who during the early stages of the advance, seeing that the gun was causing heavy casualties by 
firing over open sights at very close range, dashed forward and despite a withering machine-gun 
fire directed on him from either flank succeeded single-handed in capturing it, and killing the entire 
gun detachment. See Appendix E, No. 14. 






A 
i 



<!< 



n.« 



,V1 



.JHt 






pq 
S 

w 
(-. 
a. 
w 
fi 

z 
o 



H 
Z 

w 
a 



H 

z 

o 



z 

o 






S 
m 

w 

X 
H 

O 

z 



z 



September ISTj THE BATTLE OF MONT ST. QUENTIN 105 

the enemy, and the cemetery north-east of the wood captured by 7.30 a.m. 
All attempts to advance beyond the cemetery were checked by converging 
machine-gun fire from the ramparts of Peronne, and, as the left of the 
53rd Battahon had lost touch with the 6th Brigade, it was decided not to 
push further forward until the situation had improved on that flank. 
One company of the 55th Battalion was moved up to form a defensive 
flank on the left of the 14th Brigade at the brickworks north of the ceme- 
tery. By 8.40 a.m. the 54th Battalion had succeeded in reaching the 
centre of Peronne, having crossed the moat north-west of Peronne by 
means of two narrow foot-bridges, in the face of heavy artillery fire and 
of sweeping machine-gun fire from the houses. Moving southwards through 
Peronne, the " mopping up " proceeded satisfactorily, and by 8.45 a.m. 
connection had been established with the 15th Australian Brigade at the 
causeway south of the town.^ Peronne was now practically in our hands 
with the exception of the isolated north-east portion around the Faubourg 
de Bretagne. 

The 6th Brigade moved forward simultaneously with the 14th Brigade. 
As the situation of the leading troops of the 5th Brigade was not 
The capture of the clear at the time of the assembly of the 6th Brigade, 
village of Mont St. the 23rd Battalion on the right formed up in Gottlieb 
Quentin by the 6th and Save Trenches, and, in order to avoid the possi- 
Austrahan Brigade ^jjj^^ ^^ shelling any of our troops who might still be 
holding out in Elsa Trench, our artillery bombardment was placed just 
east of the Peronne-Bouchavesnes road. The result was that the leading 
troops of the 6th Brigade had to advance about 1,000 yards without 
close artillery support over ground in which there were small parties 
of the enemy still offering resistance. Although subjected to very heavy 
machine-gun fire from the direction of St. Denis and Peronne, and in 
spite of the fact that in two companies all the officers and all the 
sergeants except one became casualties, the leading troops of the 
23rd Battalion with great determination pressed on and reached Elsa 
Trench, where some parties of the 5th Brigade were found. On the left 
the 24th Battalion, immediately it advanced, encountered the same heavy 
machine-gun fire. Notwithstanding this, skirting Feuillaucourt, the 
battalion reached a line east of the Peronne-Bouchavesnes road on 
which, owing to the intensity of the fire from Plevna Trench and the 
Canal du Nord, a halt had to be made. 

Orders were at once issued by Brig.-Gen. Robertson for a heavy bom- 
bardment of the enemy's position on the hill and in the village, after which 
a further advance was to be made. The 21st Battalion was also brought 
up from reserve to reinforce the 23rd Battalion. From 1 p.m. to 1.30 
p.m. the village of Mont St. Quentin was bombarded by every gun and 
howitzer which could be made available, and at 1.30 p.m. the attack was 
renewed. Two companies of the 21st Battahon rushed the northern half 
of the village, and the 23rd Battalion the southern half, while at the 
same time the 24th Battalion advanced on the north of, and one company 
of the 21st Battalion on the south of, the viUage. A desperate struggle 

' Corporal Hall and Corporal Buckley, 54th Battalion, greatly distinguished themselves 
during this advance and in the fighting in Peronne. See Appendix E, Nos. 21 and 8. 

P 



106 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY [September 1st 

ensued.^ The defenders were picked troops who fought hard, but the 
impetus of the first rush carried the advance to Mont St. Quentin Wood, 
which was captured, and our hne established along its eastern edge. The 
24th Battalion cleared Plevna and Koverla Trenches, and, on the extreme 
left, reached its objective in Tortille Trench, 500 yards south-west of 
Allaines. During the afternoon touch was gained with the 14th Brigade 
on the right, and, as the fighting had been exceptionally severe and the 
casualties heavy, no further advance was attempted. Machine-gtms were 
pushed forward, and our line consolidated east of Mont St. Quentin village 
and wood, and along Koverla and Tortille trenches to the Tortille river.^ 

The pressure on the left of the 14th Brigade was somewhat relieved 
by the successful attack of the 6th Brigade, and fresh attempts were 
made to push forward east of the cemetery north of Peronne. Heavy 
machine-gun fire from the ramparts, however, again rendered all these 
efforts unsuccessful, until at 5 p.m. the 53rd Battalion advanced to the 
outskirts of St. Denis in spite of the enfilade fire to which it was exposed. 
At 6.30 p.m. the situation was unchanged; fighting was still in 
progress in the northern portion of Peronne ; the Germans held the ram- 
parts of the town and St. Denis in strength, and were also defending the 
sugar factory north-west of St. Denis. While these positions were still 
in the enemy's possession it was impossible to advance, and, as some 
parties of the 53rd Battalion had reached the neighbourhood of St. Denis, 
it was not possible for our artillery to open fire on these points of 
resistance. At 8.30 p.m., therefore, the advanced parties at St. Denis 
were withdrawn, and our line was established along the eastern outskirts 
of Peronne, and east of the cemetery to the Brickworks. 

At 5 a.m., thus preceding the advance of the 2nd Australian Division 

by one hour, the 11th Brigade of the 3rd Australian Division continued 

the attack between the Canal du Nord and Bouchavesnes. 

8r?A^Sn°Divi On the right the 43rd Battalion met with strong resist- 

ance from the trenches north of Allaines, but by 6 p.m. 

it had secured the southern slopes of the spur north-west of that village, 

and was in touch with the 2nd Australian Division at the Canal du Nord 

500 yards west of Allaines. ^ Good progress was made on the left by 

the 41st and 42nd Battalions, and, early in the afternoon, our line was 

established on the high ground south-east of Bouchavesnes. The position 

of the troops of the 58th Division was at this time a little obscure, and 

consequently one company of the 44th Battalion was moved to Quarry 

Farm to support the left flank of the 11th Brigade. Four himdred and 

five prisoners and 15 machine-guns were captured by the 3rd Australian 

Division during the day. 

The operations on the front of the III Corps were very successful. 
On the right the 58th and 47th Divisions, attacking in conjunction with 

' The conspicuous gallantry and initiative of Sergeant Lowerson, 21st Battalion, in this 
attack materially influenced the situation at a critical period. See Appendix E, No. 31. 

' The machine-gunners of the 2nd Australian Machine Gun Battalion were of great assistance 
to the infantry in this attack, and Lieut. Towner's gallant behaviour did much towards 
ensuring success. See Appendix E, No. 43. 

' Lce.-Corp. Weathers during this attack was instrumental in capturing 180 Germans and 
3 machine-gims. See Appendix E, No, 47 




■f. 



•y. 



z 



September 1st] THE BATTLE OF MONT ST. QUENTIN 107 

the 3rd Australian Division, made good progress. The resistance offered 

to our advance was not so serious as that on the previous day, and the 

Th ti ns f the hostile artillery retaliation was comparatively light. "^ 

m Corps ; the attacks Bouchavesnes was captured by the 58th Division, and 

oJ the 58th and 47th Rancourt by the 47th Division, a considerable number 

Divisions ^j prisoners being taken in both places. By 11 a.m. 

the high groiind east of Bouchavesnes had been gained, and the 47th 

Division had reached the south-western edge of St. Pierre Vaast Wood. 

The task of the 18th Division on the left was to connect up the 

attack of the 47th Division on Rancourt \vith that of the 38th Division on 

Morval by the capture of the Sailly-Saillisel-Combles 

SackTee°iTp°7" valley, across which the enemy held the line Priez 

Farm-Fregicourt-Haie Wood, all of which had been 

strengthened considerably during the past few days. 

In order to avoid making a frontal attack against the enemy's position 
in the valley, Maj.-Gen. Lee decided to attack only the southern 
portion of the position opposite Priez Farm.^ His plan was to push straight 
through to St. Pierre Vaast Wood on this part of the front Avith one 
battalion, and to mask the remainder of his front with the fire of artillery, 
trench mortars, and smoke. The leading battalion was to be followed by 
two others, which would in turn change direction, attack northwards 
and thus take the enemy's position in flank and rear. The attack, which was 
carried out by the 55th Brigade, was a complete success. The 8th East 
Surrey in the van, after capturing Priez Farm, where the fighting was very 
bitter, reached its final objective with comparatively little loss.^ 

Following behind the 8th East Surrey, the 7th The Buffs and the 
7th The Queens moved through the area of the 47th Division, turned 
northwards, and successfully carried out their tasks, the latter battalion 
capturing 300 prisoners at Fregicourt, out of a total for the division 
of 700. 

Not content with the brilliant success of these tactics, Maj.-Gen. 
Lee placed the 7th Royal West Kent at the disposal of the 55th Brigade, 
and at 7 p.m., after a brief struggle, this battalion captured Saillisel in 
conjunction with the troops of the 38th Division, whose objective was 
Sailly-Saillisel, the northern end of the same block of ruins which had 
been the scene of such hard fighting in the winter of 1916. 

On the evening of September 1st the situation on the front of the 

Fourth Army was most favourable. The Australians had stormed the 

The situation on the enemy's positions on, and north of, Mont St. Quentin, 

evening of September and held the greater part of Peronne. The divisions 

"^'' of the III Corps had driven the enemy from his strong 

positions on the heights between Bouchavesnes and Morval, where he had 

undoubtedly intended to make a stand. Moreover, the enemy's losses 

' This was probably because the enemy, when he was driven from his positions on the previous 
day, had been compelled to withdraw his guns well back owing to the lie of the ground. 

• Priez Farm was actually in the 47th Division area, and the 8th East Surrey formed up 
south of the divisional boundary. 

' Near Priez Farm a hostile strong post which held out was heavily bombarded by the 142nd 
Trench Mortar Battery of the 47th Division. Eventually the battery commander and one man 
went out and accepted the surrender of the whole garrison of 80. 



108 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY [September 2nd 

had been very heavy, especially in the vicinity of Mont St, Quentin and 
Peronne, and in the neighbourhood of the Bouchavesnes ridge, Priez 
Farm, and Fregicourt. 

Information obtained from prisoners showed that the front north of 
Peronne had been heavily reinforced at the expense of the front south of 
the town, where the enemy relied on the Somme to strengthen his 
position. His battalions were much below strength, and consequently a 
large number had been engaged. Thirty-four battalions of eight different 
divisions had been identified during September 1st ; several machine-gun 
and pioneer battalions had reinforced the infantry battalions, proving 
conclusively that the enemy's situation in regard to reinforcements was 
precarious, and that his losses had been unusually severe. 

During the night of September 1st the AustraHan Corps pushed the 

bulk of its field and heavy artillery across the river in order to support 

the advance of the infantry on September 2nd. On 

exp*ioi^io^Q 0° success *'^^ ^ Corps front, during the same night, the 58th 

Division was relieved by the 74th (Yeomanry) Division, 

under the command of Maj.-Gen. E. S. Girdwood, which had joined the 

Fourth Army on August 30th. Sir Alec. Godley decided to use this 

division to drive the enemy across the Canal du Nord, storm the Nurlu 

heights, and secure the high ground to the south of that village. The 

47th and 18th Divisions, further north, were ordered at the same time to 

establish a defensive flank on the high ground north and north-east of 

Moislains, the 18th Division operating in conjunction with the 38th 

Division on the right of the Third Army. 

In order to ensure the success of this plan it was necessary for the 
2nd Australian Division to push forward with its left flank on the Canal 
du Nord, and secure the high ground around Aizecourt-le-Haut, so as to 
protect the right flank of the 74th Division as it advanced. Concurrently 
with these operations the 5th Australian Division was to seize the high 
ground from Doingt to Bussu, including the two prominent localities, 
Flacques Wood and Racquets Wood. 

The advance of the 5th Australian Division was entrusted to the 
14th and 15th Brigades. The former employed the 56th Battalion, 
supported by two companies of the 55th, to work 
6th Aus*raiian°Division eastward north of Peronne, and the 54th Battalion to 
complete the " mopping up " of the north-eastern 
portion of the town. The latter brigade moved the 58th, 59th, and 60th 
Battalions across the Somme during the night by the causeway south of 
Peronne in support of the 14th Brigade. The 58th was ordered to assist 
the 54th in clearing Peronne, while the 59th and 60th were to support 
the attack of the 56th north of the town. 

The attack, which was launched at 6 a.m., was preceded by half an 
hour's bombardment of the ramparts on the northern outskirts of Peronne, 
where a considerable amount of machine-gim resistance was anticipated. 
At " zero " the bombardment was lifted and directed on to various centres 
of resistance, which were kept under fire until attacked by the infantry. 
This preliminary bombardment provoked very heavy retaliation from the 
enemy's artillery, which continued throughout the operation. 




Q 
O 

o 



> 
< 

Q 

z 

< 



z 

w 
Q 



M 
Z 
Z 

o 

« 
-w 



September 2nd] THE BATTLE OF MONT ST. QUENTIN 109 

Moving forward from their assembly positions at " zero," the troops 
of the 14th Brigade met with a withering fire from the ramparts north 
of Peronne and from St. Denis. Under this converging fire the advance 
sustained a temporary check, but the two companies of the 55th BattaHon, 
from support, worked forward on the left and gained a footing in the 
Sugar Factory, and by 7.45 a.m. had penetrated to the Brickworks on 
the outskirts of St. Denis, thereby forcing the enemy to evacuate the 
village. By 10 a.m. the 59th Battalion of the 15th Brigade had pressed 
forward north of Peronne, and, supported by the 60th, held a 
line from the ramparts to the outskirts of St. Denis on the right of the 
55th and 56th Battalions. About this time also the north-eastern ram- 
parts of Peronne were cleared by the 54th Battalion, assisted by the 
58th. In the afternoon patrols advanced across the St. Denis- 
Mont St. Quentin road, but, as numerous casualties were sus- 
tained in approaching St. Denis Wood, it was finally decided to take 
up a position west of the road. This was accordingly done, and at 6 p.m. 
a line was established by the 5th Australian Division along the south-eastern 
and eastern outskirts of Peronne, and about 100 yards west of the St. 
Denis-Mont St. Quentin road. In the course of the afternoon patrols, 
which endeavoured to force a passage across the river near La Chapellette, 
were unable to effect a crossing on account of the severity of the 
machine-gun fire from the eastern bank ; attempts to cross the marshes 
at Flamicourt were equally unsuccessful. 

North-east of Mont St. Quentin the 2nd Australian Division attacked 
on the left of the 5th Australian Division, with the 7th Brigade operating 
on a three-battalion front. The attack was supported 
2nd AusLSn DiSon ^y seven brigades of field artillery which put down a 
series of standing barrages, each brigade being allotted 
an area on which to direct its fire. The heavy artillery co-operated by a 
bombardment of AUaines, Haut-Allaines, and other selected points in 
rear. 

At 5.30 a.m. the 7th Brigade passed through the 6th Brigade, which 
was holding the line, and advanced to the attack. Almost immediately, 
the 26th Battalion on the right encovmtered heavy machine-gun fire 
from the right flank, as the troops of the 5th Australian Division did not 
begin their advance until half an hour later. The troops on the extreme 
right of the brigade, therefore, after making slight progress, faced south- 
wards and consolidated Koros and Kurilo Alleys, thus forming a defensive 
flank. On the left the 27th Battalion was also checked by machine-gun 
fire. As a result of this temporary check, the artillery barrage outpaced 
the infantry, and the fight developed into an infantry attack against 
numerous well-sited machine-gun nests held by determined men. Section 
leaders, however, showed splendid initiative and daring in dealing with 
these nests, and the advance was resumed.^ After exceptionally heavy 
fighting AUaines and Haut-Allaines were finally captured, and about 600 
of the enemy were seen retreating in confusion over the flat country north 
of Aizecourt-le-Haut. 

■ In one of these nests, situated in a mine crater near the Mont St. Qucntin-Haut-Allaines 
road, 17 machine-guns and 2 trench mortars were captured. 



110 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY [September 2nd 

At 7 a.m. a defensive flank, facing south-east, was established north 
of, and almost parallel to, the St. Denis-Aizecourt-le-Haut road up to 
within 1,000 yards of the latter village, while the 25th Battalion in the 
centre reached a line 700 yards beyond the Bussu-Haut-AUaines road. 
Immediately east of Haut-AUaines the infantry found itself under the fire 
of field guns firing over open sights, and established itself well clear of the 
village. On the left, north of Haut-Allaines, a gap existed in our line 
near the Canal du Nord, and, as the advance of the 74th Division north 
of the canal did not make the progress that had been anticipated, a defen- 
sive flank was thrown back through the northern outskirts of Haut- 
Allaines to AUaines. The position of the 7th Australian Brigade, forming 
as it did a sharp and narrow salient, was at first somewhat precarious, 
but additional machine-guns were pushed forward, and a good defensive 
position was established with the troops distributed in depth. At dusk 
the 43rd Battalion of the 11th Brigade of the 3rd Australian Division 
moved forward, established a post on the canal north of Haut-Allaines, 
and cleared the trenches near the canal north-west of AUaines, thus 
obtaining connection with the 7th Brigade on the right and with the 74th 
Division on the left, and closing the gap which had previously existed. 

It had been a stiff day's fighting, for the enemy resisted stubbornly ; 
in spite of this, the 7th Brigade had crossed the fire-swept slopes 
and had reached their objectives, capturing over 200 prisoners, 93 machine- 
guns, 8 minenwerfers, and inflicting heavy losses on the enemy. 

North of the Canal du Nord the 74th and 47th Divisions, operating 
against Moislains, encountered a much more vigorous resistance than had 
been anticipated. Starting at 5.30 a.m. down the 
The o^rabons o£ the ^gstcm slopes of the Tortille valley, the troops of the 
74th Division at first made rapid progress. They 
advanced south of Moislains, crossed the Canal du Nord, and by 8 a.m. 
were advancing up the eastern slopes of the valley towards Niu-lu. Shortly 
afterwards, however, a counter-attack, supported by the fire of machine- 
guns and artillery, drove our troops back over the canal and through 
Moislains, where there was heavy fighting. Eventually the troops of 
the 74th Division, much weakened by the enemy's counter-attack, were 
unable to maintain their hold along the western bank of the canal, and 
established a line of resistance along a trench line on the western bank 
of the Tortille. On the left of the 74th Division the 47th Division 
advanced about 1,000 yards, finally holding a trench running about 
300 yards west of Moislains.^ Meanwhile, the 18th Division, which was 
operating on the northern portion of the army front in conjunction with 
the 38th Division of the Third Army, was engaged in clearing up St. 
Pierre Vaast Wood. This work was successfully completed dvu-ing the 
day ; about 100 prisoners were captured, and Government Farm was 
occupied. 

During the next two days our patrols made continuous efforts to gain 
ground east of Peronne and Mont St. Quentin, and to force the line of 

' The attack of the 47th Division was much assisted by the courage and initiative of Private 
Jack Harvey, l/22nd London, who, single-handed, compelled 37 Germans to surrender. See 
Appendix E, No. 23. 



Sept. 3rd & 4th] THE BATTLE OF MONT ST. QUENTIN ill 

the Canal du Nord. Patrols of the 5th Australian Division gained a 
footing in Flamicourt on September 3rd, and, on the foUowng day, 
cleared the village and gained possession of Chair Wood, 
Septe^er 3rT and 4th which lies to the east of it. East of Mont St. Quentin 
the 2nd Australian Division gained a little ground, 
and advanced their left along the Canal du Nord slightly, but as the enemy's 
machine-gim fire was still very active, no serious effort was made to 
continue the advance. 

All attempts made by the 74th and 47th Divisions on September 3rd 
to eject the enemy from Moislains and force a crossing over the Canal du 
Nord were unsuccessful, but, Avhen the pressure was renewed on the 
morning of September 4th, although at first the resistance appeared to be 
as strong as ever, our troops succeeded in establishing posts on the farther 
side of the canal. By the evening Moislains had been completely cleared, 
and oiu- line was firmly estabhshed east of the canal at the foot of the 
slopes leading up to the Nurlu heights. Meanwhile, on September 3rd 
the 18th Division pushed patrols through Vaux Woods, which met with 
very little resistance, as the Germans were in process of retiring in front 
of the V Corps on the left. By the evening of September 3rd the troops 
of the 18th Division were established along the western bank of the Canal 
du Nord. On the following day the progress of the V Corps, combined with 
the energetic action of our patrols, made Riverside Wood, east of the 
Canal du Nord, untenable for the enemy, and by the evening the 18th 
Division was firmly established on the eastern edge of the wood. 

The battle of Mont St. Quentin may be said to have ended on 
September 2nd, when the Australian Corps had secured Peronne, St. Denis, 
The results of the Mont St. Quentin, and Haut-Allaines, and the III Corps 
BatUe of Mont St. was in possession of the Bouchavesnes ridge and St. Pierre 
Quentin y^ast Wood. Mont St. Quentin and Peronne were 

the dominating features in the enemy's defences, and their capture by 
the 2nd and 5th Australian Di\nsions, very materially assisted by the 
action of the 3rd Australian Division, will always rank high amongst the 
many brilliant feats of arms performed by' the Austrahans. They 
captured the position from the enemy's picked troops and maintained ft 
against numerous counter-attacks.^ The whole operation was a triumph 
for the Australian Corps. It was conspicuous for the excellent preparatory 
work of the commanders and staffs, as well as for the initiative, courage, 
and resolution of the regimental officers and men.^ The spirit of the 
Australian soldier is well exemplified by an epitaph, which the visitor to 
the battlefield of Mont St. Quentin mky still find inscribed on a small 
white cross roughly put together from "timber collected from the ruins 
of the village : — 

" Here lie six Boches. 
They met a Digger." 

The operations of the III Corps were also worthy of the highest 

,. . '. ^" all, the enemy made fifteen counter-attacks to recover the position. He employed nine 
divisions in his attempt to stem the advance of the Australian and III Corps, and to prevent our 
troops crossing the Canal du Nord. 

» In the three days' fighting round Mont St. Quentin the Australians captured 2,600 prisoners 
mcluduig men from the 2nd Guard, 14th Bavarian, 21st, 38th, and 185th Divisions. 



112 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY [September 4th 

praise. The advance of the troops of this corps, from the capture of Albert 
on August 22nd until they crossed the Canal du Nord on September 4th, 
covered a distance, as the crow flies, of some fourteen miles, over the desolate 
shell-pitted area of the old Somme battlefields. The operations require 
to be studied in greater detail than is possible here before the magnitude of 
the task the troops were asked to perform, and the demands on the officers 
and men which such an advance in face oJf determined opposition entailed, 
can be fully realised. The spirit, however, of the young soldiers of the 
12th, 18th, 47th, and 58th Divisions successfully overcame every difficulty, 
and well did they answer every call made on them, and uphold the best 
traditions of the British soldier by their cheerfulness and endurance.^ 

The situation as regards the German troops who opposed us was, 
from our point of view, very satisfactory, and, thanks to our Intelligence, 
we were kept well informed both as regards their future 
^: KmbSr intentions and their condition. 

It had been ascertained from prisoners that the 
German withdrawal to the line of the Somme and the Canal du Nord had 
been timed to begin on August 24th. The enemy had started his retreat 
on that day in the Albert area, while he had evacuated Roye on August 
26th. This retirement, especially south of the Somme, when once begun, 
had been very rapid. It had been, however, covered by rearguards, and 
it was evident from the number of counter-attacks delivered, especially 
north of the Somme, that the enemy had no intention, if he could prevent 
it, of allowing our troops to push forward faster than he wished. 

Between August 21st and September 4th, however, in order to 
prevent a disaster, the enemy had been compelled to throw into the line 
fourteen more divisions ; of these the 2nd Guard, 14th Reserve, 25th, 
83rd, 87th, 232nd, and 233rd Divisions were engaged for the first time, 
the remainder had been engaged in the battle before. This gave a total 
of thirty-three divisions which had opposed the Fourth Army between 
August 8th and September 4th, eight of which were engaged twice ^ ; 
against these the Fourth Army had employed sixteen divisions. The 
disorganisation of the German forces was extreme. Owing to our 
sweeping successes, the enemy had been forced to throw his reserve divi- 
sions into the line on widely separated parts of the front, regiment by 
regiment, as they arrived on the field of battle. For instance, in Bernafay 
Wood on August 27th, prisoners belonging to twenty-one different 
battalions of six different divisions had been taken, and again on September 
1st between Peronne and Rancourt, prisoners belonging to thirty-four 
battalions of eight different divisions were captured. No troops could 
suffer such defeats as had the Germans without serious loss of moral, 
and ample evidence was forthcoming that this was affecting the German 
Army as a whole. Certain formations, indeed, had fought well, 
noticeably the 2nd Guard Division and the Alpine Corps, while the 
Machine Gun Corps still retained its high reputation. It was ominous 

' The prisoners captured by the III Corps, between August 31st and September 2nd alone, 
amounted to over 2,300. 

2 36.209 prisoners, of whom 838 were officers, had been captured since August 8th. Of 
these, 3,397 prisoners belonged to the 225th Division, 2,760 to the 117th Division, 2,557 to the 
41st Division, and 2,483 to the 14th Bavarian Division. 




Q 
O 



September 4th] THE BATTLE OF MONT ST. QUENTIN 113 

for the enemy, however, that on more than one occasion machine-gun 
crews had surrendered without firing. The situation, too, from the 
enemy's point of view, with regard to reinforcements was very serious. 
In Jiily, as the result of their losses, the Germans had been compelled to 
disband two divisions, while in August nine more had been broken up. 
This, therefore, reduced the enemy's strength on the western front from 
207 divisions, including four dismounted cavalry divisions, in June — ^the 
maximum strength to which he ever attained — ^to 198 divisions at the 
beginning of September ; moreover, a number of battalions had been 
reduced from four to three companies. 

The result of the battle of Mont St. Quentin left the enemy in a very 
difficult position in front of the Fourth Army now that the line of the 
Somme had been turned. It was obvious that the number of troops 
which had sufficed to hold the crossings over the river south of Peronne, 
would not suffice to hold a position of equal length further east %vithout 
an obstacle such as the Somme in front of them, and that this part of the 
front, which had been denuded of troops to provide reserves for the counter- 
attacks further north, would have to be reinforced. Nor was this all, for 
the Third Army had made rapid and consistent progress diu-ing the last 
few days and had carried its advance well beyond Bapaume.^ 

The storming of the famous Drocourt-Queant line by the First 
Army on September 2nd, and the advance of the French to Ham, had 
added still further to the enemy's difficulties. It appeared that, pivoting 
for the moment on the well-wired defences on the high ground about 
Nurlu, the enemy was continuing his retreat in front of the First and 
Third Armies, and that this retirement was to be followed later by a 
withdrawal in front of the Fourth Army and the French. 

The enemy could not be allowed to carry out this manoeuvre without 
interference, and, either the Nurlu heights would have to be captured, 
or the thin screen holding the Somme south of Peronne would have to be 
driven in. 

In view of the strength of the enemy's defences on the Nurlu 
heights, and the losses that a premature frontal attack on such a strong 
position would entail. Sir Henry Rawlinson, decided, on September 3rd, 
while continuing to make every preparation for an attack on the Nurlu 
position, to attempt to force a passage over the Somme by a siu-prise 
attack at St. Christ, and so open up the crossing at Brie. This operation 
if successful, combined with an attack in a south-easterly direction from 
Peronne, would clear the Hne of the Somme and thus render feasible an 
eastward advance along the whole front of the Australian Corps south of 
the town. The Australian Corps at once began preparations to carrv out 
these orders, but, before they were completed, the situation had developed, 
and the enemy had begun his retirement to the outer defences of the 
Hindenburg Line along the whole front of the Fourth Army. On the 
evening of September 4th the indications of this retirement became 
definite, and orders were issued for the III and Australian Corps to follow 
him up energetically with strong advanced guards. 

' On the evening of September 4th the troops of the V Corps crossed the Canal du Nord 
between Manancourt and a point east of Hermies. 



CHAPTER VII 

THE ADVANCE TO THE HINDENBURG LINE — SEPTEMBER 5TH-28tH 

Maps 1, 2, 4, 8, and 9 ; and Panoramic Photographs 4 and 5 

The readjustment of the front — September 5th ; the enemy in full retreat — September 6th and 
7th ; the pursuit — The co-operation of the Royal Air Force — The events of September 8th 
— The situation on September 9th — September 10th ; the fighting on the flanks at Holnon 
Wood and Epehy — September 11th ; the arrival of the IX Corps ; the readjustment of the 
front — The general situation on September 11th — Sir Henry Rawlinson's proposals — The 
proposals approved — September 12th to 17th ; minor operations — The preliminary arrange- 
ments for the attack on September 18th — The objectives — The frontages of attack — The 
artillery arrangements — The allotment of tanks — A summary of the Fourth Army attack 
on September 18th — The assembly of the IX Corps — The first phase of the IX Corps attack 
— The second phase — The result of the day's fighting by the IX Corps — The assembly of 
the Australian Corps — The first phase of the Australian Corps attack — The second phase — 
The third phase — The result of the day's fighting by the Australian Corps — The assembly 
of the III Corps — The first phase of the III Corps attack — The 74th Division attack — The 
18th Division attack — The attacks of the 12th and 58th Divisions — The second phase of the 
III Corps attack — The result of the day's fighting by the III Corps — The situation on Sep- 
tember 19th — The events on the IX Corps front on September 19th and 20th — The events 
on the III Corps front on September 19th and 20th — The decision to attack the Hindenburg 
Line ; the Fourth Army reinforced — The readjustment of the front — The III Corps attacks 
on September 21st-22nd — The IX Corps operations on September 24th — The pressure 
maintained by the IX Corps on September 25th and 26th — The bombardment of the 
Hindenburg Line begun on September 26th — Minor operations by the 27th and 30th 
American Divisions on September 26th and 27th — The attacks of the Allied Armies on 
other parts of the front — The situation on the Fourth Army front on September 28tb. 

When orders were issued, late on September 4th, for the 

Austrahan and III Corps to follow up the enemy, the Australian Corps 

held the southern portion of the front of the Fourth 

® 'the^front^° ° Army from south of Cizancourt, where it was in touch 
with the First French Army, to the Canal du Nord 
about 1,000 yards north of Haut-AUaines. The 32nd Division and the 
5th and 2nd Australian Divisions held the line on this front from right 
to left ; the 1st, 3rd, and 4th Australian Divisions were in reserve. 
The northern portion of the army front, to its junction with the 
Third Army on the southern outskirts of Manancourt, was held by the 
III Corps, with the 74th, 47th, and 18th Divisions in line from right to left, 
and with the 12th and 58th Divisions in reserve. In the army area, but in 
general reserve, were the IX Corps Headquarters and the 6th Division. 

As the 2nd Australian Division was feeling the effects of the strenuous 
work it had just accomplished, it was relieved on the night of September 
4th. This was effected by the 74th Division and the 5th Australian 



Sept. 5th] THE ADVANXE TO THE HIXDEXBURG LINE 115 

Division extending their fronts to the south and north respectively, and 
joining hands on the new inter-corps boundary, which ran east and west 
from north of Mont St. Quentin through Bussu and Roisel.^ 

The withdrawal of this division left the 32nd Division and the 5th 
Australian Division, each with two brigades in the line, holding the whole 
front of the Australian Corps. As, however, it was essential that the 
pursuit of the enemy should be maintained with unabated vigour in order 
to prevent him from destroying the roads and railways west of the 
Hindenburg Line during his retirement, the 3rd Australian Division, on 
the evening of September 5th, took over a portion of the line held by the 
5th Australian Division, while the 5th Australian Division took over part 
of the 32nd Division front. On completion of this readjustment on 
September 6th the troops of the Australian Corps were organised for the 
ptu-suit ; the 32nd Division on the right, as far north as the Brie-Vermand 
road ; the 5th Australian Division in the centre, operating between the 
Brie-Vermand road and a line running east and west through Cartigny ; 
the 3rd Australian Division on the left. 

The whole front covered by the Australian Corps amounted to some 
15,000 yards. This was too extensive for the troops at the disposal of 
the Australian Corps Commander, in view of the hard fighting which 
they had been through since August 8th, and of the losses they had incurred. 
It was, moreover, probable that, now the Somme had been passed, the 
weight of the enemy's opposition would be equally distributed along 
the whole front of the Fourth Army. This was represented to General 
Headquarters, and the Fourth Army was shortly afterwards reinforced 
by the IX Corps with four divisions, in order that the front of the 
Australian Corps might be reduced, and strong pressure be maintained 
against the retreating enemy. 

The changes necessary on the III Corps front before the advance was 
resumed were not so extensive. During the night of September 4th the 
18th Division was relieved by the 12th Division, which had been resting 
since August 30th, and moved into reserve for the first time since the 
commencement of the Battle of Amiens on Augiist 8th. For the greater 
part of a month the 18th Division had been fighting incessantly and 
successfully, and had covered in its advance from the Ancre to the 
Canal du Nord a distance of approximately seventeen miles. The 47th 
Division remained with the Fourth Army until the evening of September 
7th ; it was then withd^a^^^l to join the Fifth Army. This division also 
had taken a conspicuous part in the advance of the III Corps since 
August 22nd. 

Early on September 5th the enemy began to retire along the front 

of the Australian Corps, covered by strong rearguards. On the right 

rearguards of the 5th Bavarian and 119th Divisions 

enemy™m^hiii retreat defended the crossings of the Somme at St. Christ and 

Brie. Early in the morning, however, a platoon of the 

15th Highland Light Infantry of the 32nd Division crossed the swamps 

of the Somme at Eterpigny undiscovered, and surprised one of the 

'_ The 2nd Australian Division, on relief, was withdrawn to the vicinity of Cappy, where it 
remained for some weeks. 



lie THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY [Sept 5th-7th 

enemy's posts. This platoon was quickly reinforced by the remainder 
of the 14th Brigade, which cleared Brie and St, Christ after a stiff fight. 
The engineers and pioneers of the 32nd Division then carried out the 
construction of bridges at Brie and St. Christ with such skill and rapidity 
that, by noon on September 6th, not only the whole of the 32nd Division, 
but also a considerable number of French troops had crossed the river 
by these bridges. Meanwhile, advancing at da\vn on the 5th, patrols of the 
5th Australian Division worked forward under cover of a smoke screen and 
captured Doingt and Bussu after slight opposition. Further opposition 
was encountered, mainly from machine-guns and isolated field guns, 
which, although causing a temporary delay, did not impede the general 
advance to any great extent. During the day 150 prisoners were 
captured. 

The III Corps also pressed forward at dawn on the 5th. The 74th 
Division on the right, and the 47th Division in the centre, advanced rapidly, 
seized Aizecourt-le-Haut, and cleared the ground east of the main Peronne- 
Nurlu road to the outskirts of Driencourt. On the left the troops of the 
12th Division were subjected to a heavy gas concentration while forming 
up for the attack in the early morning. Nevertheless, they pressed on at 
daybreak, and, in spite of a number of casualties from machine-gun fire, 
succeeded by skilful manoeuvring in making a considerable advance 
during the day. They penetrated the first system of trenches and wire 
of the Templeux-la-Fosse-Nurlu defences, and by evening had established 
themselves in the trenches on the western edge of Nurlu.^ An attack, 
which was laimched in the dark against Nurlu village, was unsuccessful, 
and provoked considerable retaliation from the enemy's artillery. A 
footing, however, had now been established on the Nurlu heights, which 
deprived the enemy of satisfactory observation for his artillery fire, and 
when the advance was resumed next morning Nurlu was occupied after 
slight resistance by the 12th Division. 

The pursuit was resumed on September 6th, and very little resistance 

was encoimtered along the whole army front until the evening of 

September 7th. The 13th Austrahan Light Horse 

?h™uif('eetlj?' Regiment and the Australian Corps Cyclist Battalion 

formed the advanced screen of the Australian Corps, 

while the Northumberland Hussars performed a similar duty for the 

III Corps. 

The advance was closely supported by field artillery brigades, of 
which sections accompanied the advance guard battalions. The German 
rearguards were thus continually harassed, and the isolated machine-gun 
nests, left behind by the enemy in order to impede ovu" progress, were in 
most cases destroyed, or forced to withdraw without fvdfiUing their 
mission. On the Australian and III Corps fronts the patrols of the 13th 
Australian Light Horse Regiment and the Northumberland Hussars 
maintained contact with the enemy's rearguards throughout his 
retirement. 

Athies and Cartigny were entered early on September 6th, and by 

• This area was defended by the newly arrived 6th (dismounted) Cavalry Division, prisoners 
being captured from regiments of each of its three brigades. 








(1. 
o 

u 



z 
z 

o 



7-. Z 

< o 

X -- 

_: C 

- a: 



z 



X 
X 

O 

u 




c 
•5 




z 



X 

< 

■A 



z 



o 

'Si 



CO 






Sept. 5th-8th] THE ADVANCE TO THE HINDENBURG LINE 117 

the evening of September 7th the advanced troops of the Australian 
Corps had estabUshed themselves along the high ground east 
of Beauvois, and thence through Villevecque, Soyecourt, and Bernes, 
and along the western slopes of the ridge east of Roisel. During the 
same period the III Corps effected an advance of some 4,500 yards, and 
captured Aizecourt-le-Bas, Longavesnes, and Lieramont during 
September 6th. Following this up on the 7th with the capture of 
Villers Faucon, Saulcourt, and Guyencourt, its advanced troops established 
an outpost line on the spurs 1,000 yards east of the Roisel-Epehy railway 
as far north as Ste. Emilie, and wthin 1,500 yards of Epehy and Pcizieres. 

Meanwhile, on September 6th the First French Army entered Ham, 
and by the evening of September 7th had advanced to the St. Quentin 
Canal at St. Simon and Tugny, and was holding a line running northwards 
to Fluquieres and Vaux (see Map 2), A number of prisoners and a few 
guns were captured in the advance, but in many parts of the battlefield 
the enemy withdrew so rapidly that touch was lost for several hours. 

During our advance most valuable work was again accomplished 

by the 5th Brigade, Royal Air Force. The weather was ideal at this 

period, and our airmen made full use of their opportunity, 

ti^^Royai'to'Force ^J^^S ^ver the battle area from dawn to dusk. On 

September 5th very few hostile aeroplanes were 

encountered, but on the following day a large number were engaged, eight 

of which were destroyed and five driven down out of control by our airmen. 

Early on the morning of the 6th several of the enemy's observation balloons 

were in the air around Epehy observing for their heaw guns, and watching 

the movements of oiu- troops. Within two hovu-s of taking the air, these 

had all been destroyed or forced to descend by our airmen. The 

enemy's retreating troops also offered good targets for the machine-guns 

and bombs from our aeroplanes. ^ 

The pursuit was renewed early on September 8th, but it soon became 

apparent that the enemy's resistance was stiffening. His artillery had 

been withdrawn, and was apparently in position cover- 

Seplember 8th ^^g *^^ general line Attilly-Maissemy-Jeancovut- 

Templeux-le-Guerard-Epehy. South of the river 

Omignon the hostile sheUing was chiefly from field guns and was dispersed 

over the forward area, but north of that river the enemy's heavy guns 

' Magnificent work was performed by a flight of S.E. 5's of No. 84 Squadron under Captain 
Beauchamp-Proctor. On the morning of September 5th, this flight of six machines set out on 
an independent mission, with the object of doing as much damage as possible to the retreating 
enemy. Flying low round Roisel, small parties of the enemy were seen and engaged with machine- 
gun fire. The flight then proceeded from Roisel to Hancourt, and thence to Mons-en-Chaussee. No 
Germans were seen, but, while passing over Athies, our aeroplanes were fired on by a field gun in the 
open. Captain Beauchamp-Proctor dived at the gun, killing some of the crew with his machine-gim 
fire, while the remainder fled. Another of the airmen dropped a bomb on the limber, which 
scattered the drivers and killed some of the horses. One of the enemy attempted to escape on ahorse, 
but was pursued and rolled over after a short burst of fire from Captain Beauchamp-Proctor's 
machine-guns. The flight, still flying very low, then pursued its course to St. Christ." Our infantry 
was seen advancing towards a hostile machine-gun concealed in a sunken road, at which Captain 
Beauchamp-Proctor, followed by his flight, at once dived and killed or dispersed the crew. Our 
troops were then observed to be pointing towards some trenches about 400 yards from them. 
Flying in the direction indicated Captain Beauchamp-Proctor and his airmen observed about 
thirty of the enemy attempting to leave the trench where they had been hiding. With the 
exception of five of the enemy, who were killed by the infantry, the flight accounted for the 
whole of this party. See also Appendix E, No. 5. 



118 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY [Sept. 8th-ioth 

were also very active. In addition to the increased resistance of the 
enemy, there was a break in the weather, which, apart from a few showers, 
had been consistently fine since August 22nd. This change hindered the 
advance of the troops. 

On the front of the Australian Corps verj' little progress was made. 
Patrols of the Australian Corps Cyclist Battalion entered Vermand during 
the morning without opposition, and found the enemy holding positions 
along the left bank of the Omignon at Marteville, VillechoUes, and Maissemy, 
and on the high ground about Vendelles and west of Jeancourt. On the 
left of the Australian Corps front, the 3rd Australian Division advanced 
about 1,500 yards and secured Montigny Farm and Hervilly. 

On the front of the III Corps patrols of the 74th Division almost 
immediately encountered strong opposition in the Villers Faucon area 
from troops belonging to the 56th Straf Kompagnie, one of the discip- 
linary companies which had been formed by the Germans from men con- 
demned to various periods of imprisonment. In accordance with orders 
which it had received not to incur heavy casualties, the 74th Division 
did not attempt to press on, and halted on the line it had gained. On 
the left the 58th Division advanced against Epehy and Peizieres, and 
made some progress.^ During the day patrols of this division entered the 
villages of Ep^hy and Peizieres ^ ; they were, however, driven out again by 
determined hostile counter-attacks, which were delivered almost immediately 
by the Alpine Corps. The advanced troops of the 58th Division at the 
close of the day's fighting were established in an existing trench system 
on the southern and western slopes of the hill, while the enemy occupied 
a position on the western outskirts of Ep^hy and Peizieres, and showed 
indications of making a determined stand on what had been the British 
main line of resistance in the previous March.' 

On September 9th the operations of the Australian Corps were 

limited to active reconnaissance. Patrols of the 3rd Australian Division 

pressed forward east of Montigny Farm and through 

^SepteSbM 9th° Hesbecourt ; they succeeded in advancing 1,000 yards 

and in retaining the ground gained. 

A counter-attack south-west of Epehy, which was carried out by the 
Alpine Corps on the morning of September 9th, and resulted in the loss 
to us of a few lengths of trenches, was a further evidence of the increasing 
resistance on the front of the III Corps.* 

On the morning of September 10th the 32nd Division, on the right 

' Before advancing, the 58th Division extended its front southwards in order to take over 
the portion of the line which was held by the 12th Division. The latter division was then with- 
drawn into reserve. Later in the day the 74.th Division shortened the line held by the 58th 
Division by extending its front 1,500 yards to the north. 

^ The high ground on which these villages are situated was very important to the enemy for 
the defence of the line he had taken up further south. (See Panoramic Photograph No. 5.) 

3 All the prisoners captured at this time reported that the enemy proposed to hold 
this line. 

* During the week following the capture of Mont St. Quentin, the enemy had reinforced his 
front with six divisions, of which the 6th (dismounted) Cavalry Division and the Alpine Corps 
were probably the most formidable. He had also managed to withdraw the remnants of nine 
divisions, the intermingling of whose units had caused such indescribable confusion during, and 
just after, the Battle of Mont St. Quentin. These reliefs undoubtedly increased the enemy's 
power of resistance for the time being. 



Sept. ioth-Hth] THE ADVANCE TO THE HINDENBURG LINE 119 

of the Aiastralian Corps, advanced over the high ground east of Beauvois, 
and, meeting with httle resistance except at Marteville, estabUshed 

oo„f »„,».», inth . th0, posts in the south-west comer of Holnon Wood and 
September lOtn ; tne r , . /. -u*^ . -n mi .-j.i j r. i 

fighting on the flanks in the Outskirts of Marteville. ihe 5th and 3ra 
at Holnon Wood and Australian Divisions, which were being relieved by 
Ep6hy ^j^g ^^j^ ^^^ ^^^ Australian Divisions,^ did not attempt 

to move forward. 

The III Corps on the 10th again attempted to force the enemy's 
position at Epehy, in order to test the accuracy of the reports received, 
and to ascertain definitely whether the enemy's resistance was a rearguard 
action or an organised defence in depth. On the right, south of Epehy 
and facing Ronssoy Wood, the 74th Division attacked at 5.15 a.m. and 
advanced about 1,000 yards. Our troops were, however, unable to main- 
tain their hold, in face of the counter-attacks which were again launched 
against them by the Alpine Corps. They, consequently, withdrew to their 
starting positions, retaining only a few advanced posts, which succeeded 
in withstanding all further attempts of the enemy to force them back. 
On the left at the same hour an attack was launched by the 173rd 
Brigade of the 58th Division under cover of a creeping barrage, and sup- 
ported by a concentration of heavy artillery fire on selected targets. 
Good progress was made at first, and our troops gained a footing in both 
Epehy and Peizieres, and even penetrated as far east as the railway. 
They were, however, driven back by an immediate counter-attack from 
the railway embankment, and were compelled to withdraw almost to 
their original " starting line." In the day's fighting 100 prisoners of 
the AJpine Corps were captured, and it was definitely ascertained that 
the enemy was holding Epehy strongly with an organised garrison. This 
was a strong position, and it was clear that it could only be captured by 
a deliberate assault, supported by all available artillery and tanks. 

At 11 a.m. on September 11th Lieut. -Gen. Sir Walter Braithwaite, 

commanding the IX Corps, took over command of the 32nd Division and 

September 11th ; the ^^^ front it was holding between Holnon Wood and 

arrival of the EX Corps ; Vermand, both inclusive, from Sir John Monash. On 

"^^ "hf fro'S^"' °' *^^ ^^""^ ^^^ *^^ ^^^ Division, commanded by Maj.- 
Gen. T. O. Marden, was transferred from army reserve 
to the IX Corps. The 1st Division, commanded by Maj.-Gen. E. P. 
Strickland, which was arriving by rail, was also placed at the disposal 
of that Corps. On September 19th the 46th Division, commanded 
by Maj.-Gen. G. F. Boyd, arrived and was also posted to the IX Corps. ^ 

During the 11th, continuing its success in Holnon Wood, the 32nd 
Division gained a further footing in the south-western portion of this 
wood and occupied the greater portion of Attilly. Posts were also 
established in Vermand without opposition. During the night of the 
11th the 1st Division relieved the left half of the front of the 32nd Division 
between Attilly and Vermand. Further north, the 4th Australian Divi- 
sion, in conjunction with the 1st Australian Division, made shght progress 

' These divisions began to arrive from the rest areas on September 9th. 
• The 1st, 6th, 32nd, and •i6th Divisions remained with the IX Corps until the end of the 
campaign. 



120 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY [Sept. iith 

between Vermand and Hesbecourt. At first the resistance was only slight, 
and the 4th Australian Division reached the western outskirts of Jeancourt 
without difficulty. On the III Corps front, following on the fighting around 
Epehy on September 10th, the enemy under cover of a heavy bombardment 
delivered a strong counter-attack against the right of the 74th Division 
on the 11th. This resulted in a -withdrawal of some of our advanced 
posts, but entailed no further alteration in our line. 

Meanwhile, on September 8th Sir Douglas Haig had called for a 

general report on the situation, with especial reference to the enemy's 

dispositions and moral, together with Sir Henry 

?nSep°^bSitr Rawlinson's opinion as regards the prospects of 

success of any futiu-e offensive operations on the 

front of the Fourth Army. 

In reply, Sir Henry Rawlinson on September 11th reported that, 
as the result of the operations of the previous days, his troops were close 
up to, and in the centre had occupied part of, the old British reserve line 
of March, 1918, which included the localities of Holnon, Maissemy, 
Jeancourt, Hesbecourt, and Ste. Emilie. 

East of this, he pointed out, the enemy possessed five distinct lines 
of defence.^ The first of these, which the Germans had held against xis for 
some time during their withdrawal in the spring of 1917, and which had 
then become the British main line of resistance, contained the important 
tactical localities of Fresnoy-le-Petit, the high ground south of Berthau- 
court, Le Verguier, Grand Priel Woods, the high ground north and south 
of Hargicourt, Ronssoy-Basse Boulogne, and Epehy-Peizieres. These 
were all natvu-ally strong positions, and had been very much strengthened 
with wire, trenches, and dug-outs both by ourselves and the enemy. This 
was the line the enemy was now holding in considerable strength, and he 
showed no signs of giving it up without a struggle. So long as it was held 
by the Germans we were denied all observation over the main Hindenburg 
Line. 2 Some 1,500 to 2,000 yards east of the first hne, and likely to fall 
with it, was the old British outpost line, neither strongly wired nor 
offering any great difficulties to an attack from the west. 

To the east of this again was a third line of defence, which in 
1917 was the German outpost position to the main Hindenburg Line. 
It ran through Thorigny, Ste. Helene, Buisson Gaulaine Farm, Ruby Wood, 
Quennemont Farm, Gillemont Farm, The Knoll, and Little Priel Farm. 
When constructed in 1917, this line was not intended to be held against 
an attack in force. The importance to us, however, of this line, on 
account of the observation it afforded over the main Hindenbm-g 
Line, was so obvious that it had been very materially strengthened, 
and had become part of the outer defences of the main Hindenburg 
Line. The enemy, moreover, had, as the result of oiu- attacks in 
1917, realised the advantage of defence in depth. He had prepared 
accordingly, and, given sufficient troops of reasonably high moral, he 
might. Sir Henry Rawlinson considered, be expected to hold the outer 
defences with determination. 

> These five lines can best be seen on Map 10, on which all the trenches and wire are shown. 
' This line was called the Siegfried Line by the Germans. 



Sept. 11th] THE ADVANCE TO THE HINDENBURG LINE 121 

Next came the Hindenburg Line proper, of which the St. Quentin 
Canal and the Bellicourt and Le Tronquoy tunnels formed the chief 
features. This main line of defence was undoubtedly very strong, and 
there could be no hope of rushing it. Behind the main Hindenburg 
Line there was yet a fifth line, kno^vn as the reserve Hindenburg, or Le 
Catelet-Nauroy Line, which, although not so formidable as the main 
Hindenburg Line, was well wired and of considerable natural strength. 

On the other hand. Sir Henry Rawlinson represented that the enemy's 
moral had without doubt much deteriorated. It was true that his 
infantry had fought well at Mont St. Quentin and Peronne, and later at 
Epehy, but his severe defeat in the Battle of Amiens, his long forced 
retirement, and his heavy losses, which he had been unable to replace, 
had all told severely. His troops were much shaken, and their power of 
resistance had greatly depreciated.^ 

It was calculated that on the 11th the Fourth Army was opposed by 
seven divisions,^ of which six were engaged for the second time, and that 
the strength in rifles in the line probably did not exceed 12,000. ^ It was 
estimated that, out of the twenty-one divisions that had been withdrawn 
from the line since August 8th, only five were immediately fit for active 
operations, and that their total fighting strength would not amount to 
more than 10,000 to 11,000 bayonets. 

In view of the above. Sir Henry Rawlinson asked that he might be 

allowed to undertake with the least possible delay a definite operation 

on the whole front of the armv to gain possession of 

TopSs the outer defences of the Hindenburg Line. Such an 

operation, if carried out at an early date, would deny 
the enemy any opportunity of reorganising his troops, improving his 
defences, or becoming familiar with the scheme of defence. Every day's 
respite given to the enemy was of inestimable value to him. Further, 
should it be decided to attack the main Hindenburg Line, our troops would 
need a short period of rest in which to reorganise their communications * 
before undertaking such an important operation. It would be advisable 
that this interval should take place after the capture of the outer defences 
of the Hindenburg Line, rather than before, so that advantage might be 
taken of it for reconnaissance, for the systematic organisation of the 
artillery arrangements, and for other important preliminaries, that would 
have to be carried out before an attack on a large scale could be under- 
taken. 

In conclusion. Sir Henry Rawlinson submitted that, although he 
was inclined to think that an attack on the main Hindenburg Line on a 
^\'ide front and with ample artillery support would be successful, he did 

' Some orders captured during the next few weeks give a good idea of the state of the German 
moral at this period. See Appendix H. 

2 These calculations proved to be approximately correct. There were, in fact, eight divisions 
opposing us on September 18th— the 25th Reserve, 79th Reserve, 119th, 1st Reserve, 5th 
Bavarian, 38th, 2nd Guard, and the Alpine Corps (from south to north). 

2 The strength of companies was known to be down to 25 in many cases, and none had a 
strength of more than 70. 

* The railway had at that time reached Peronne, but beyond that all food and ammunition 
had to go forward by lorry, which caused a great straui on the" roads, m;my of which were in bad 
repair. 



122 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY [Sept. i2th-15th 

not consider that he could give a definite opinion as to its practicabiUty 
until the high ground then held by the enemy, and especially Holnon 
Wood, Le Verguier and the high ground north of it, the high ground 
about Cologne Farm, and the group of villages round Ronssoy and Epehv 
had been captured. The possession of these positions would give us good 
observation over the main Hindenburg Line, which was essential before 
an attack against it could be contemplated, and would enable recon- 
naissance to be made of the best avenues of approach. An attack on these 
advanced positions would, moreover, be an infallible test of the enemy's 
power of resistance, which was after all the ruling factor, and by the 
result of it we should discover the probable chances of success of an attack 
against the main Hindenburg Line. 

Sir Douglas Haig approved of Sir Henry Rawlinson's proposals. 

He authorised the launching of an attack by the Fourth Army at an 

early date with a view to capturing the high ground 

"^anTov^*^ which gave observation over the Hindenburg Line, 
and he arranged for the attack to be extended north- 
wards by the Third Army, and for the co-operation of the French to the 
south. 

The task of the IX and Australian Corps for the next few days 

consisted in making preparations for the attack, and in advancing their 

September 12th to l'^^» where it was to their advantage to do so, by 

17th ; minor opera- vigorous action of strong fighting patrols. These 

'*°°* tactics were employed with success. By September 

13th the IX Corps had occupied the greater part of Holnon Wood and 

Villecholles, while the First French Army on the right had reached the 

outskirts of Roupy and Savy. On the night of September 13th the 

6th Division relieved the remainder of the 32nd Division on the right of 

the IX Corps front. ^ 

On the Australian Corps front the 1st Australian Division occupied 
Jeancourt on September 12th without meeting with much resistance. 
On the following day the 4th Australian Division advanced our line several 
hundred yards east of Bihecourt and Jeancourt, and secured the ridge 
between these two villages, capturing two officers and 96 other ranks. ^ 
The III Corps made no attempt to advance its line, although both our own 
and the enemy's artillery were very active. Our airmen were also fully 
occupied at this period, as the weather was generally fine with only a few 
occasional showers of rain. Seven of the enemy's observation balloons 
were attacked by our airmen and were all forced to descend, three in flames 
and one shot adrift. 

With the exception of the final clearing of Holnon Wood by the 11th 
Essex of the 6th Division, and the capture of part of the high ground 
between Holnon Wood and Maissemy by patrols of the 1st Division, no 
infantry operations were undertaken on September 14th. 

At 5.30 a.m. on September 15th the 1st Division continued its 
success by capturing Maissemy and the rest of the high ground to the 

' The 32nd Division on relief moved back to the Corbie area for a well-earned rest after 26 
days continuously in the line. 

' These prisoners belonged to the 1st Reserve and 119th Divisions. The former division 
had just relieved the 21st Division, and was now engaged for the third time since August 8th. 



Sept. i5th-i7th] THE ADVANCE TO THE HINDENBURG LINE 123 

south-east of it against slight opposition ; 78 prisoners 'of the 25th Reserve 
and 79th Reserve Divisions and 20 machine-guns were taken. On the 
same date the 4th AustraHan Division seized the spur south-west of 
Le Verguier, thus weakening the enemy's hold on this important village. 
Infantry action on September 16th on the army front consisted only of 
some slight advances on the part of patrols. On the other hand, our 
airmen were extremely active and successful. During the day, fourteen 
hostile machines were destroyed and five shot down out of control, while 
we lost only three machines. 

On September 17th, in order to improve its " starting line " for the 
attack on the outer defences of the Hindenburg Line, the 6th Division, 
on the right of the IX Corps, employed the 18th Brigade to attack Holnon 
village and Badger Copse in co-operation with the 34th Division of the 
First French Army. The 18th Brigade encountered strong opposition 
on the edge of Holnon Wood, and suffered heavy casualties from artillery 
and machine-gun fire. By 11 a.m. the 11th Essex had secured Trout 
Copse, and later on Badger Copse ; Holnon village changed hands several 
times during the day, and at night it was doubtful who held the village. 
The French, after much opposition, secured the right flank of the IX 
Corps by the capture of Savy Wood. 

On the rest of the army front, except for some desultory shelling, all 
was quiet on the 17th. 

In the meanwhile, on receiving Sir Douglas Haig's permission to 
carry out the attack, orders had been issued on September 13th defining 
The preliminary objectives, the intcr-corps boundaries and those of the 
arrangements for the army, and giving the allotment of tanks to corps. On 
attack on September receipt of these orders the IX, Australian, and III Corps 
^^"* commenced their preparations. Aeroplane photographs 

of the enemy's defences to a depth of 4,000 yards were taken, and were dis- 
tributed throughout formations to all officers and non-commissioned officers 
taking part in the operations. As in the preparations for August 8th, 
every provision was made to ensure secrecy. Final instructions were 
issued by Sir Henry Rawlinson on September 14th, giving the nature 
and rate of advance of artillery barrages, the length of halts in the 
advance of the barrage, and other details, and also fixing the date of 
attack as September 18th. By the evening of September 17th all 
arrangements had been completed, and " zero " was fixed for 
5.20 a.m. 

The attack was to be carried out along the whole of the front of the 

Fourth Army, in conjunction with the XXXVI French Corps of the First 

French Army to the south, and the two southern corps 

The objectives of the Third Army to the north. The operation was 

to be undertaken in three phases. The first phase 

included the capture of the enemy's first line of defence ^ or the old British 

main line of resistance, and special importance was placed on securing 

Selency, Fresnoy-le-Petit, Le Verguier, the Grand Pricl Woods and the high 

ground north of them, Ronssoy-Basse Boulogne, and Epehy-Peiziercs. 

The objectives of the second phase coincided in many places with the 

* See page 120. 



124 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH AR^Hf [Sept. i 7th 

enemy's second line of defence, or the old British outpost line. It included 
the villages of Gricourt, Berthaucourt, and Pontru, Ascension Farm, 
Villeret, Cologne Farm, Malakoff Farm, Sart Farm, Tombois Farm, and 
Little Priel Farm. 

The third phase, or phase of exploitation, depended upon the collapse 
of the enemy's opposition, and consisted of gaining a footing in the last of 
the outer defences of the Hindenburg Line. This entailed the capture of 
Thorigny, Pontruet, Buisson Gaulaine Farm, Quennemont Farm, Gillemont 
Farm, and Tlie Knoll. It was not expected that this line would necessarily 
be reached on the first day of the operations, but it was considered probable 
that, in the event of the attack being successful on September 18th, 
vigorous exploitation would shortly afterwards result in this objective 
being secured. 

The front on which the Foiui;h Army was about to attack was 
approximately fourteen miles in width, and extended from Holnon 
village to just north of Peizieres. The IX Corps front 
® attacif ^^ ° extended from the south-eastern outskirts of Holnon 
to a point 500 yards north of Vadencourt, some 7,000 
yards in all. The 6th and 1st Divisions were in line on the right and left 
respectively, the former holding 3,000, and the latter 4,000 yards. In 
the centre of the Fourth Army the Australian Corps held a front of 7,000 
yards, from the northern boundary of the IX Corps to the Cologne river 
immediately west of Templeux-le-Guerard. This was divided equally 
between the 4th Australian Division on the right and the 1st Australian 
Division on the left. The III Corps continued the line to a point about 
500 yards north-west of Epehy, where it was in touch with the V Corps of 
the Third Army. This front of about 7,000 yards was held by the 74th, 
18th, 12th, and 58th Divisions, from right to left. The 74th Division 
was allotted rather more than 2,000 yards, the 18th Division rather less 
than 2,000 yards ; the 12th Division, immediately in front of Epehy, 
held over 2,500 yards, and the 58th Division on the extreme left 
about 700 yards. 

There was to be no preliminary bombardment, reliance being placed, 
as on August 8th, on the effect of surprise, a powerfid artillery concen- 
tration including intense covmter-battery work, and the 

arrangemeSs assistance of tanks at points where the resistance was 
expected to be most pronounced. A creeping barrage, 
provided by 750 18-pounder guns and 228 4*5-inch howitzers, was to cover 
the advance of the infantry to the first objective. This barrage was to 
be lifted 100 yards after two minutes, after which it was to advance at 
the rate of 100 yards every three minutes until it had moved forward 
1,300 yards from the infantry " starting line," after which it was to advance 
at the rate of 100 yards every foiu* minutes until the first objective was 
reached. It would then form a protective barrage for one hour, after 
which it was again to be moved forward at the rate of 100 yards every 
four minutes as far as the second objective. The barrage in the second 
phase of the attack would be less dense than in the first phase, as, after 
the protective barrage on the first objective had ceased, a number of 
batteries were to move forward to new positions, under divisional arrange- 



Sept. 18th] THE ADVANCE TO THE HINDENBURG LINE 125 

ments, with a view to assisting in the third phase of the attack ; their 
fire would thus be lost during the second phase.^ 

The 2nd Tank Battahon had been allotted to the Fourth Army for 
this operation and was sub-allotted to corps as follows : 

" C " Company of six tanks to the IX Corps. 
"^^ ''?*'*^'°* °* " B " ,, „ nine „ „ Australian Corps. 

"A" „ „ eight „ „ III Corps. 

It was necessary to economise tanks to the utmost, in view of the 
probability of an attack being carried out against the main Hindenburg 
Line in the near future, for which a large supply of tanks would be 
essential. Corps were, therefore, instructed to limit the employment of 
tanks to assisting the infantry attacks against certain strong points of 
resistance, and to forbid them to advance east of the first objective.^ 

In accordance with these instructions, out of the six tanks allotted 
to the IX Corps, four were detailed to deal with an important trench system 
north of Selency called the Quadrilateral, and two were to assist to clear 
Badger Copse and attack Fresnoy-le-Petit. Of the nine tanks with the 
Australian Corps, five were earmarked to clear Le Verguier and the trench 
systems north and south of it, in co-operation with the 4th Australian 
Division, and five for the attack on Hargicourt, Villeret, and the high 
ground around Cologne Farm, in co-operation with the 1st Australian 
Division. The III Corps allotted four tanks to the 18th Division to assist 
in the attack on Ronssoy-Basse Boulogne and Ronssoy Wood, and 
four tanks for the operations against Epehy and Peizieres. The 5th 
Brigade, Royal Air Force, was ordered to co-operate with the 2nd Tank 
Battalion in the arrangements for masking anti-tank guns with smoke 
bombs, and for the usual low-flying aeroplanes to drown the noise of the 
tank engines during their assembly. To supplement the small number of 
tanks available, the 1st and 4th Australian Divisions constructed a con- 
siderable number of dummy tanks, by means of which it was hoped to 
increase the demoralisation of the enemy and make him disperse his anti- 
tank fire.^ 

The assembly of the infantry took place almost without incident, 

except on the right of the IX Corps. Although the early part of the 

A svimmary oi the night was fine, it was raining heavily when the attack 

Fourth Army attack on was launched at 5.20 a.m. ; later the rain ceased, and 

September 18th ^ dull cloudy day followed. The light was bad ; the 

ground was soft and slippery, and consequently not suitable for the tanks, 

of which a certain number were " ditched " in the deep simken roads and 

high embankments. 

The enemy's resistance varied considerably. It was perhaps most 
determined in front of the III Corps and on the right and centre of the 
IX Corps ; as a result, these two corps were unable to gain all their 

1 In addition to, and in close co-operation with, the artillery barrages, machine-gun barrages 
were arranged by all corps. 

* The 1st Australian Division was permitted to use its tanks as far as the second objective 
as it included Cologne Farm, which was known to be strongly defended. 

' These dummy tanks, though excellent imitations of real tanks, were not as successful 
as would have been the case had the weather been dry, as the mud quickly clogged the wheels 
and rendered the dummies immobile. Even so they drew a good deal of hostile artillery fire. 



126 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY [Sept. i 8th 

objectives, although considerable progress was made in each case.^ On 
the Australian Corps front the initial opposition was also strong, and it 
was not until the crust of the defence had been broken by the rapidity 
and impetuosity of the Australian advance, that the enemy began to 
surrender freely and in large numbers. The Australians made a remaric- 
able advance, and by the evening had established themselves in close 
proximity to the line of exploitation, the objective of the third phase of 
the attack. 

By 5 a.m. the 6th Division, on the right of the IX Corps front, was 

assembled with the 71st and 16th Brigades in the line, and the 18th 

Brigade in support. The uncertainty as to the position 

"^^ k'co"ps°* ""^ of the troops of the 71st Brigade in the neighbourhood 
of Holnon village, and the enemy's shelling on this 
portion of the front, rendered the assembly and forming up of the troops 
of the 6th Division very difficult. On the left the 1st Division formed up 
for the attack without incident, the 1st Brigade being on the right, the 
2nd Brigade on the left, and the 3rd Brigade in reserve. 

In spite of the sodden ground caused by the heavy rain, fair progress 

was made when the troops moved forward at " zero," except on the 

right of the 6th Division. Here the advance was slow, 

the rx 'conis*aUa°ck ^^' from the moment the attack started, considerable 
machine-gun fire was encountered from Selency, the 
Quadrilateral, and Fresnoy-le-Petit ; also from Round Hill and Manchester 
Hill, to the south-west and south of Francilly-Selency respectively, positions 
which the French on the right of the IX Corps were unable to secure.^ The 
hostile artillery shelling was heavy ; the advance of our troops was made 
down bare slopes swept by enfilade as well as frontal fire, and was much 
impeded by wire ; while the drizzling rain, accompanied by mist, obscured 
the landmarks and made it difficult to keep direction. In consequence, the 
71st Brigade made little progress, and the struggle about Holnon village 
and Selency continued. The 16th Brigade on the left was at first checked 
in front of Fresnoy-le-Petit, but had occupied it by 8.40 a.m. Later in the 
day our troops were forced to withdraw from the village. Only two of 
the four tanks allotted to the 6th Division succeeded in coming into action ; 
these, finding that the infantry was held up by fire from the Quadrilateral, 
headed straight for the seat of the trouble. Here very strong opposition 
was encountered. One tank became " ditched," and the other, after 
engaging the enemy and inflicting heavy casualties, burst into flames and 
had to be abandoned. The gallant survivors of both tanks then held a 

' An incident which is worth recounting occurred on the right of the III Corps front. 
Owing to an error in the synchronisation of watches, some machine-guns opened fire too 
soon. This mistake, however, enabled the waiting infantry to realise fully the intensity of the 
covering fire they were receiving from machine-gims. Some of our men stated that the noise 
of this fire resembled the tearing of a huge sheet of calico, while others compared it to the firing 
of a million rifles. It can, therefore, be imagined what effect was produced, not only on the enemy 
but on the attacking infantry, when the noise of the fire of these comparatively few machine-guns 
was augmented at " zero " by that of 1,488 guns and over 300 machine-guns. 

' These two localities " Round Hill " and " Manchester Hill " had played an important 
part in our retreat in March, 1918. They had, prior to the German offensive, been organised as 
strongholds, or redoubts, each holding a complete battalion provisioned for forty-eight hours 
Although completely surrounded, Manchester Hill held out in March for many hours. Both 
positions were very strong and dominated the surrounding country. 




o 

S 

u 



z 

< 



H 
P4 

I 

w 

I 

o 
z 



Sept. 18th] THE ADVANCE TO THE HINDENBURG LINE 127 

portion of trench a little in rear of their disabled tanks until relieved later 
by the infantry. 

Meanwhile, further north the 1st Division made good progress. 
The 1st Brigade on the right was somewhat delayed by machine-gun 
fire from the valley north of Fresnoy-le-Petit and from the trenches 
north-east of that village, but, with the assistance of the 2nd Brigade, 
which had reached the first objective at 7.30 a.m., the 1st Brigade secured 
its objective by 8.15 a.m. The IX Corps had thus secured the first 
objective from Fresnoy-le-Petit northwards to its junction with the 
Australian Corps. 

The advance towards the second objective from Fresnoy-le-Petit 
northwards was resumed at 8.30 a.m., but, as further progress south of 
Fresnoy-le-Petit seemed doubtful, the 71st Brigade 
The second phase formed a defensive flank in order to seciu-e the flank 
of the advance against any counter-attacks which 
might be launched from the direction of Selency and the Quadrilateral. 
On the right of the 1st Division progress north-east of Fresnoy-le-Petit was 
very slow in the face of considerable opposition, and the line was only 
advanced a few hundred yards beyond the Fresnoy-le-Petit-Berthaucourt 
road. On some parts of the front the barrage gradually outstripped 
the infantry, and any attempt to advance had, therefore, to be made 
without its assistance. The left of the 1st Division, however, made 
good progress and kept well up to the barrage. Berthaucourt was 
captured at 10.30 a.m., and the 2nd Brigade, keeping in touch with the 
Australians on its left, captured the second objective at 11 a.m. The 
troops of the 4th Australian Division at this stage, finding that the 
resistance in front of them was slight, had continued their advance 
beyond the second objective. In order to maintain touch with them, 
the troops of the 2nd Brigade advanced towards Ste. Helene and 
estabhshed themselves just west of that hamlet. 

At 3.30 p.m. the enemy launched several determined coimter-attacks 
against the left of the 6th Division at Fresnoy-le-Petit, and against the right 
of the 1st Division south of Berthaucoiu-t.^ North of Fresnoy-le-Petit 
these counter-attacks were repulsed by rifle and machine-gun fire, but 
the situation around Fresnoy-le-Petit became very involved. Fighting 
continued also throughout the afternoon on the front of the 6th Division, 
especially round Holnon village and Selency, no further progress was, how- 
ever, made. Meanwhile, the French division on the right of the 6th Division 
had been held up in front of Francilly-Selency, which added to the 
difficulties of the 6th Division ; the 2nd Life Guards Machine Gim 
Battalion, attached to the 6th Division, was, therefore, disposed in depth 
on the high ground near Holnon in order to secxire the safety of the 
right flank. 

"When darkness set in our line ran along the eastern edge of Holnon 
village, where a junction was established with the French, north of Selency, 
through the western outskirts of Fresnoy-le-Petit, with a few posts in 

' These counter-attacks were carried out by three battalions of the 197th Division (a Jager 
formation), which had been sent forward in 'buses, leaving Maretz (6 miles south-west of Le 
Cateau) at 10 a.m., to reinforce the 79th Reserve Division. 



128 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY [Sept 18th 

the village, thence due north, keeping just west of Pontruet and Ste. 
Helene, near which village the 1st Division was in touch with the 
The result of the Australians. As the result of the day's fighting, the 
days fighting by the IX Corps had captured 18 officers, 541 other ranks, 
rx Corps g f^gi^j guns, and numerous trench mortars and machine- 

guns. The casualties had unfortunately been comparatively heavy, owing 
chiefly to the determined resistance offered by the 25th Reserve, 79th 
Reserve, and part of the 197th Divisions. 

In spite of the rain and the muddy state of the ground, the 1st and 
4th Australian Divisions completed their assembly in good time. Of the 
nine tanks supporting the infantry, eight succeeded 
A^Sn Cot*"' i^ reaching the "starting line." On the right of the 
Australian Corps the 4th Australian Division assembled 
for the attack with the 12th Brigade on the right, the 4th 
Brigade on the left, and the 13th Brigade, disposed along the 
spiu- south-west of Vendelles, in reserve. The 12th Brigade was 
to attack on a one-battalion front throughout the advance ; 
the 48th Battalion carrying out the attack against the first, the 45th 
against the second, and the 46th against the third objective. The 4th 
Brigade was to attack the first objective on a three-battalion front, 
the 13th and 15th Battalions passing round Le Vergmer, while the 16th 
" mopped up " the village. The two former battalions were then to 
continue the attack on the second objective, after the capture of which, 
the 14th Battalion was to " leap-frog " them and carry out the exploita- 
tion to the third objective. ^ 

On the left of the corps front the 1st Australian Division was disposed 
for the attack with the 3rd Brigade on the right, the 1st Brigade on the 
left, and the 2nd Brigade in reserve. The 1st and 3rd Brigades were 
to attack the first objective, each on a front of two battalions. The 
remaining two battalions of each brigade were then to " leap-frog " the 
leading battalions, capture the second objective, and, if possible, secvire 
the third objective. 

The infantry advanced to the attack at " zero," keeping close behind 

the barrage, which was excellent and so dense that the enemy in many 

The first phase ol cases " went to ground " and became an easy prey for 

the Australian Corps our infantry. The hostile artillery retaliation to our 

attack barrage was light and scattered, causing very few 

casualties. On the right of the 4th Australian Division the 12th Brigade 

encovmtered some fire from machine-gun nests, but these were promptly 

outflanked and put out of action by the 48th Battalion.^ On the front 

of the 4th Brigade, however, Le Verguier proved a more difficult task. 

The enemy had established a number of strong machine-gun posts among 

the ruins of the village, and these posts, owing to the smoke of the barrage, 

were difficult to locate. This was a disadvantage to the 16th Battalion, 

which had been detailed to " mop up " the village, but a distinct advantage 

to the 13th and 15th, as it helped to conceal their movements from the 

' For details of the machine-gun dispositions to support the attack of the 4th Australian 
Division, see Appendix J and Map 19. 

' In this advance the capture of an important German machine-gun post by Private James 
Woods, 48th Battalion, and three men enabled touch to be gained with the troops on the right. 
See Appendix E, No. 49. 



yo. 57. 



To face page 1 28. 





* w * * 



mmamam 



AUSTRALIANS ADVANCING CLOSE UP TO THH BARRAGE ON SEPTEMBER I8tH. 
Jiv kind permission of the .'litstraliaft Concernment. 

Ao. ?8. 




4.^ 



>■ 





AUSTRALIAN RESERXES VVAICIIING HIE BARRAGE CREEPINC; UP THE SLOPES TOWARDS 
THE OUTER DEFENCES OF THE HINDENBURG LINE ON SEPTEMBER i8tH. 
Hy kind permission of tkc Australian CoirrnmcnI. 



Sept. 18th ] THE ADVANCE TO THE HINDENBURG LINE 129 

enemy. In the hope of checking the advance, the Germans fired bhndly in a 
westerly direction, but the 13th and 15th BattaHons moved round the 
flanks, where they were apparently not expected. "^ The 16th Battalion then 
proceeded rapidly with the " mopping up " of the village, which yielded 
450 prisoners belonging to the 1st Reserve and 119th Divisions, 60 machine- 
guns, and several field guns. By 7.35 a.m. the whole of the first objective 
on the front of the 4th Australian Division had been secured. 

On the left the 12th, 11th, 2nd, and 4th Battalions of the 1st Aus- 
tralian Division, which were leading, met with considerable opposition 
at several points, chiefly on the 3rd Brigade front. Heavy fighting took 
place in Brosse Wood and in the trenches on the western outskirts of the 
Grand Priel Woods, where the garrison fought with great determination, 
and refused to surrender until all the machine-guns were silenced and 
their crews killed. The resistance from Carpela Copse and Fervaque Farm 
ceased as soon as these places were outflanked. The Grand Priel Woods, 
however, caused considerable difficulty ; here the resistance was very 
determined, and severe fighting ensued before they were captured. About 
this time a tank,which had been unable to keep up, arrived and, advancing 
through the barrage, silenced some machine-guns concealed in the sunken 
roads and trenches south-west of Villeret. The action of this tank helped 
to break the back of the enemy's resistance in front of the 3rd Brigade, 
and the first objective was secured along the whole front of the 1st Aus- 
tralian Division, the 1st Brigade having reached it earlier in the morning 
without difficulty. 

At 8.30 a.m., after halting for an hour covering the first objective, 

the barrage was again moved forward on the Australian front, and the 

attacking troops advanced. On the front of the 4th 

The second phase Australian Division the 45th, 13th, and 15th Battalions 
of the 12th and 4th Brigades had by 9.50 a.m. reached 
the second objective and captured a large number of prisoners. The 
1st Avistralian Division experienced less resistance than during the first phase 
of the battle. ^Vhen the advanced troops of both the 3rd and 1st Brigades, 
which were now found by the 10th, 9th, 1st, and 2nd Battalions, 
encountered some opposition at Villeret, and in the trench systems north 
and south of it, one of the tanks rendered timely assistance and largely 
contributed to the eventual capture of Villeret. The troops of the 1st 
Brigade also cleared the maze of trenches about Cologne Farm in spite 
of the heavy fire from the high ground round Quennemont Farm. Thus 
the second objective was quickly secured on the whole of the divisional 
front. 

The protective barrage remained stationary for fifteen minutes 

to cover the reorganisation on the second objective, and then ceased 

about 10 a.m. By this time some batteries of field 

The third phase artillery had moved forward and were in action in 
previously selected positions, from which they were 
able to support the further advance of the infantry. 

' It was during this advance that Sergeant Gerald Sexton of the 13th Battalion displayed 
great gallantry and was in a large measure responsible for the success of his battalion. See 
Appendix E, No. 39. 

S 



130 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY [Sept isth 

The 4th Australian Division pushed forward two battalions, the 
46th Battalion from the 12th Brigade and the 14th from the 
4th Brigade, but communication with the 1st Division of the IX Corps 
on the right was difficult, and the 46th Battalion found its right flank 
in the air. Undeterred, however, by the machine-gun fire which 
was enfilading it from its right, the 46th Battalion pressed forward and 
reached the sunken road running northwards from Ste. Helene, where it was 
joined later by troops of the 1st British Division. On the left of the 
advance the 14th Battalion was very successful; it obtained a footing 
in the outer defences of the main Hindenburg Line, and immediately 
commenced to exploit its gains by bombing down the trenches. In 
face of the small number of our attacking troops, the enemy's resistance 
was now found to be strengthening, and it was, therefore, decided to wait 
until the darkness had set in before launching an attack, under cover of a 
barrage, to capture the rest of the third objective on the divisional front. 
A hot meal was served while the men were waiting for the order to advance 
in the sunken road which runs northwards from Ste. Helene. At 11 p.m. 
the barrage fell, and the 46th Battalion on the right and the 14th 
on the left, advancing from the sunken road, gained a firm footing in 
the outer defences of the main Hindenburg Line. By 1 a.m., therefore, 
on September 19th the whole of the third objective on the front of the 
4th Australian Division had been captured ; in this attack alone 300 prisoners 
and numerous machine-guns were taken. This night attack of the 14th 
and 46th Battalions was a fine performance in view of the distance 
already covered and of the strenuous fighting during the day. 

When the artillery barrage, covering the troops of the 1st Australian 
Division on the second objective, ceased at about 10 a.m., the 10th and 
9th Battalions of the 3rd Brigade, moving forward in conjunction with the 
troops of the 4th Australian Division, secured a footing in the trenches 
north of Buisson Gaulaine Farm and gained practically the whole of the 
Cologne Farm ridge. Heavy machine-gun fire from the direction of 
Quennemont Farm, however, prevented a further advance of the left 
of the 1st Brigade, and at the end of the day the 1st AustraHan 
Division held the greater part of the outer defences of the Hindenburg 
Line from its junction with the 4th Australian Division at Buisson 
Gaulaine Farm to Malakoff Farm, where connection was established 
with the 74th Division of the III Corps. 

As the result of the day's fighting, the Australian Corps had penetrated 

the enemy's defences to an average depth of 5,000 yards on a frontage 

The result of the of four miles. The Australians were now well established 

day's fighting by the in the outer defences of the main Hindenburg Line, 

Australian Corps ^nd held a position which necessitated some 

reorganisation by the enemy of his plans for its defence. All the strongly 

fortified localities in the old British line of resistance had fallen, and the 

captures amounted to 4,243 prisoners, 87 guns, over 300 machine-guns, 

and about 30 trench mortars. 

A comparison of the number of troops engaged, the prisoners captured, 
and the casualties incurred in this operation, is of particular interest. 
The attacking strength of the 1st AustraHan Division was 2,854, that of the 



Ao. 59. 



To face page 1 30. 




A TYPICAL GERMAN TRENCH NEAR COLOGNE FARM. 



By kind permission oj the Australian {Juvernment. 
No. 60. 




•^"-%' tt 




i*it*n»j 



^'- - »' 




' ■! "i itlfcTWMi 



GERMANS SURRENDERING TO THE AUSTRALIANS ON SEPTEMBER i8tH. 
By kind permission 0/ ibe Auslralian Coicrnmatl. 



Sept. 18th] THE ADVANCE TO THE HINDENBURG LINE 131 

4th Australian Division 3,048. In both cases this excludes the reserve 
brigades, which were not engaged. The prisoners captured by the former 
amounted to 66 officers and 1,634 other ranks, as compared with 490 
casualties, and by the latter to 99 officers and 2,444 other ranks, as compared 
with 532 casualties. These figures speak for themselves, and demonstrate 
not only the skill and gallantry displayed by the infantry, but also the 
moral effect of the tanks and the accuracy of the artillery and machine- 
gun support. The chief resistance came from the enemy's machine-guns, 
and the fact that this was overcome with so few casualties indicates that 
it was a battle in which success was to a great extent due to the 
initiative of subordinate commanders. 

Sir Richard Butler, who had resumed command of the III Corps 

on September 12th, originally intended to attack with three divisions, 

but, owing to the strength of the enemy's defences 

""^ "m'co/ps"^ '^^ and the large area of the villages to be "mopped 

up," he finally decided to attack with all four 

divisions of his corps. 

In addition to those caused by the rain, the difficulties of assembly 
on the night of September 17th were increased by a considerable amount 
of gas shelling on battery positions and assembly areas. Nevertheless, 
the infantry was assembled up to time and without confusion. Un- 
fortunately, however, only six tanks, out of the eight allotted to the III 
Corps, succeeded in reaching the " starting line " by " zero " ; three of these 
were to operate with the 18th Division against Ronssoy and Basse Boulogne, 
and three with the 12th and 58th Divisions against Epehy and Peizi^res. 

On the right of the III Corps the 74th Division was assembled, with 
the 230th and 231st Brigades in hne on the right and left respectively, 
each strengthened by one battalion from the 229th Brigade. Two 
battalions of each of the two leading brigades were allotted the task of 
going right through to the third objective, the remaining battalions 
were to follow in support and " mop up " the ground gained. In the centre 
the 18th and 12th Divisions were allotted the formidable task of capturing 
Ronssoy, Basse Boulogne, and Epehy. An important feature on this 
part of the front was the basin lying in the triangle Ronssoy-Epehy- 
Ste. Emilie. It was decided to avoid this basin in the initial attack, and 
that the 18th Division should attack south of the spur running from Ronssoy 
to Ste. Emilie, while the 12th Division attacked west of the spur running 
from Epehy to Ste. Emilie. After the capture of Ronssoy and Epehy, 
the attacking troops were to wheel inwards and roll up the enemy's main 
line of defence, which was on the ridge joining these two villages. The 
18th Division employed the 54th Brigade, strengthened by one battalion 
of the 53rd Brigade, to capture Ronssoy, Basse Boulogne, and the first 
objective ; the 55th Brigade was then to advance through the 54th 
Brigade and secure the second objective. The 53rd Brigade, less one 
battalion detached with the 54th Brigade, was held in divisional reserve. 
On the front of the 12th Division the 36th Brigade, less one battalion, 
was assembled on the right, and the 35th Brigade on the left facing 
Epehy, for the advance to the first objective. In rear of these brigades, 
with orders to move through them and secure the second objective, was 



182 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY [Sept 18th 

concentrated the 37th Brigade, with one battalion of the 36th Brigade 
attached. 

On the extreme left of the III Corps the 58th Division employed 
the 173rd Brigade to capture Peizieres and the first objective, after the 
capture of which it was to be " squeezed out " by the advance on its 
right of the 12th Division, as the latter moved forward to the second 
objective. The remaining two brigades of the 58th Division were retained 
in corps reserve. 

Serious opposition was encoxmtered by the troops of the III Corps 
almost from the moment the advance began. It is almost certain that 
the attack did not take the enemy by surprise, although 
thT'm "orS^^tta'Jk t^^c actual hour of the attack may not have been known. ^ 
The thick mist and rain, in which the attack was 
launched, may have been responsible for the measure of surprise attained, but, 
although advantageous in this respect, they were otherwise a disadvantage, 
as the bad light rendered it difficult for the infantry and tanks to keep 
direction at the beginning of the attack. The enemy's artillery retaliation 
to our bombardment was comparatively light and came chiefly from high 
velocity guns, the field guns having been previously withdrawn. The 
aspect which the fighting assumed differed from the operations carried 
out by the III Corps over the old Somme battlefield. Manceuvring on 
a large scale against prominent tactical features was impossible, owing 
to the complicated trench systems of the old British main line of resistance 
in which the fighting took place during the whole day. Every section 
of trench was stubbornly defended by either a machine-gun or a few of 
the enemy's infantry. The fighting consisted of countless section, platoon, 
and company actions for the possession of these trenches and fortified 
posts. The chief feature of the battle was the tenacity displayed by 
our officers and men in holding on to the ground they had gained, and the 
determination with which they continued their endeavours to secvu-e 
all their objectives. 

The 74th Division made more rapid progress than the divisions on 

its left. The 230th Brigade moved forward, keeping close touch with the 

1st Australian Division on its right. Under cover 

"*' 'lttack"""°° of ^^he artillery barrage and the fire of the 74th Machine 

Gun Battalion, this brigade captured Templeux-le- 

Gu6rard and cleared the quarries north-east of the village, where twelve heavy 

machine-guns were captured with slight loss. The garrison of the quarries 

was overwhelmed by the rapidity of our advance. ^ That the enemy failed 

to hold on to such a strong position was due, partly to the excellent covering 

fire afforded by the 74th Machine Gun Battalion, and partly to the dense 

ground mist, which impeded the enemy's observation and thus restricted 

his fire. The 231st Brigade on the left also made good progress, and by 

9 a.m. both brigades of the 74th Division were established on the first 

objective. 

' A prisoner captured on September 17th stated that an attack was expected on the morning 
of the 18th. This information was confirmed when the enemy subjected the forward and battery 
areas to a concentrated gas bombardment on the night of September 17th. 

' Forty men of the 5th Bavarian Division, who came out of a dug-out later in the morning, 
surrendered to an unarmed groom who had taken his horses to the quarries for shelter. 



Sept. 18TH] THE ADVANCE TO THE HINDENBURG LINE 133 

The advance of the 18th Division proved to be more difficult. The 
7th Royal West Kent, attached to the 54th from the 53rd Brigade, 
led the attack, keeping well under the barrage. It ad- 
attack '"*'°° vanced through the southern portion of Ronssoy Wood 
and the village of Ronssoy, and was then " leap-frogged " 
by the 2nd Bedfordshire, which reached the first objective up to time. 
The northern portion of Ronssoy Wood was cleared by the 6th North- 
amptonshire after stiff fighting, and a footing was gained in Basse Bou- 
logne.i By 10 a.m. the trench system round Quid Copse, some 500 
yards short of the objective on the left, had been secured, but it was not 
until some hours later that the whole of Basse Boulogne village, in which 
the enemy held numerous small posts, was " mopped up " with the assist- 
ance of two tanks. The 54th Brigade was now in touch with the 74th 
Division on the right on the first objective, but had not yet been able to 
connect up with the 12th Division on the left. Owing to the continuance 
of the fighting in the southern part of Basse Boulogne, not only the 
supporting battalions of the 54th Brigade, but also some of the troops 
of the 55th Brigade, which was due to pass through the 54th Brigade 
and attack the second objective, were drawn into the fight. 

On the front of the 12th Division the 9th Royal Fusiliers and the 
7th Royal Sussex, of the 36th Brigade, operating immediately south 
of Epehy, made good progress and succeeded in clearing 
12th and 58th*D^visions ^^^ railway embankment south-east of the village. 
The troops of the 7th Norfolk and 9th Essex of the 
35th Brigade, however, experienced determined opposition immediately 
on reaching the western outskirts of Epehy and lost touch with the barrage. 
Even when the leading two battalions were reinforced by the 1/lst Cam- 
bridgeshire, it proved a difficult matter to dislodge the Alpine Corps from 
the village, which it had been told to hold at all costs, and casualties were 
severe on both sides. The tanks, supporting the attack, lost direction in 
the mist and were mistaken for hostile tanks by some of our troops ; 
this caused some confusion. At 9 a.m. Maj.-Gen. Higginson decided to 
stop the barrage from moving beyond the first objective, as it was evident 
that the division would not be able to continue the advance beyond the 
first objective, until time had been allowed for reorganising the troops. 

With great determination the troops of the 35th Brigade pushed slowly 
through Epehy, where strong resistance was met with, especially from a 
few posts, including Fisher's Keep, which still held out, and from 
Germans who had hidden in the cellars.^ 

On the left of the 12th Division the 173rd Brigade of the 58th 
Division made a good start at " zero," the 2/2nd London leading, and by 
10.20 a.m. had cleared Peizieres of the enemy except for one post. On 
attempting to continue to move forward to the first objective, the right flank 
was found to be exposed owing to the slow progress of the 12th Division 
in Epehy ; a defensive flank was, consequently, formed astride the railway. 

' The courage and initiative of Lee. -Corp. Albert Lewis, 6th Northamptonshire, largely 
contributed to the successful advance of his battalion. See Appendix E, No. 30. 

' The village was not finally cleared of Germans until after midnight on September 18th. 
Fisher's Keep held out till 7.45 p.m. on the 18th when only 17 unwounded survivors remained 
of the garrison of 8 officers and 45 other ranks. 



184 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY [Sept 18th 

While the 18th and 12th Divisions were engaged in the heavy fighting 

around Basse Boulogne and Epehy, the attacking battalions of the 74th 

The second phase of Division moved forward towards the second objective 

the in Corps attack shortly after 9 a.m. The 230th Brigade on the right, 

(see Map 9) keeping in close touch with the Australians, gained 

its objective at 10.30 a.m. On the left the 231st Brigade was not so 
fortunate, although a considerable advance beyond the first objective 
was made. The slow progress of the 18th Division, east of Ronssoy, 
made it necessary to form a defensive flank along the sunken road running 
south-east from Basse Boulogne, known as the Bellicourt road. Thus, 
although the second objective was gained on the right of the 231st Brigade 
as far north as Benjamin Post, prolonging the line held by the 230th 
Brigade, the resistance encountered at Benjamin Post prevented any 
further advance being made. 

Meanwhile, very confused fighting was still in progress in Basse 
Boulogne. This delayed the assembly of the troops of the 55th Brigade 
which were to pass through the 54th Brigade for the second phase of the 
attack, and had caused some of them to be drawn into the fight in the village. 
By the time the assembly was completed the artillery barrage had moved 
on too far to be of any assistance, and, as the enemy's resistance round 
Lempire and east of Basse Boulogne had increased considerably, only 
a slight advance was made by the 55th Brigade. Maj.-Gen. Lee decided 
to postpone any further attempt to advance until the troops could be 
reorganised, and arrangements could be made for adequate artillery and 
machine-gun support. 

Consequently, about mid-day the situation on the front of the III 
Corps was that the 74th Division was established on the second objective 
on the right, with its left thrown a little back ; the 18th Division held a 
line east of Basse Boulogne and Quid Copse, north of which it joined 
with the 12th Division ; this division prolonged the line along the rail- 
way east of Epehy ; while the 58th Division was established well east 
of Peizieres, but had not succeeded in maintaining connection with the 
21st Division on the right of the V Corps, which, attacking further north, 
had captured Chapel Crossing and Gauche Wood. 

About 5 p.m., by which time the whole of Basse Boulogne had been 
cleared of the enemy, the 18th Division renewed the attack towards the 
second objective, including Lempire, Yak, and Zebra posts, moving 
forward this time under a creeping barrage. The 55th Brigade pressed 
forward and succeeded on the right in approaching the second objective at 
certain points, but the left of the division made only slight progress. 
The enemy had brought up fresh troops, and held X, Y, and Z copses in 
strength with machine-guns, which enfiladed the infantry advancing against 
Lempire, Yak, and Zebra posts.^ By 7 p.m. it was clear that, so long as 

1 From prisoners captured during the afternoon it was ascertained that the strong resistance 
encountered by the 18th Division in Lempire and from X, Y, and Z copses, was due to the fact 
that the 121st Division had been hurried forward from Maretz, starting at 7 a.m. on the 18th. 
On arrival at Bony the division had debussed, and had counter-attacked at 5 p.m. with the object 
of regaining Basse Boulogne, Ronssoy, and the original front line held by the enemy on the morning 
of the 18th. Although, therefore, its attack had not been successful, the 55th Brigade had to its 
credit the repulse of a fresh division and the breaking up of a hostile counter-attack. 



Sept. i8th-i^h] THE ADVANCE TO THE HINDENBURG LINE 135 

the enemy held these positions, it would not be possible for our men to 
retain the ground gained on the right, and accordingly a withdrawal 
to the line of the Bellicourt road was ordered and carried out by 9 p.m. 

Earlier in the afternoon the troops of the 35th Brigade and the 5th 
Royal Berkshire continued the advance of the 12th Division east of Epehy, 
with the object of securing the line of the first objective. They made 
considerable progress and captured Malassise Farm. The 5th Royal 
Berkshire did especially good work and was fighting during most of the 
night. In conjunction with this attack, the troops of the 58th Division 
endeavoured to establish themselves in Poplar Trench on the line of the 
first objective, but were unsuccessful. 

By nightfall, beyond the capture of Benjamin Post, which was 
skilfully enveloped from the north by the 74th Division, a slight advance 
by the 18th Division east of Basse Boulogne, and the withdrawal of the 
troops of the 12th Division from Malassise Farm, our line had undergone 
no material change since midday. 

As the result of very severe fighting, the III Corps had captured the 

strongly fortified villages of Ronssoy, Basse Boulogne, Epehy, and 

The result of the Peizieres, which had been held by two crack German 

day's fighting by the divisions, the Alpine Corps and the 2nd Guard Division. 

m Corps The III Corps had also captured 2,300 prisoners, 10 

guns, and numerous machine-guns and trench mortars. 

On the morning of September 19th the weather was still overcast, 

and a high wind was blowing. The Australians, in the centre of the army 

front, had now gained practically the whole of their 

^eymbei°i9th objectives of the 18th, and devoted the next two days 

to consolidation and to adjusting their line at certain 

points with a view to improving observation. All attempts by the enemy 

to drive in some of the forward posts established by the Australians were 

unsuccessful. 

On the flanks of the army, on the other hand, neither the IX nor 
the III Corps had reached all their objectives on September 18th. The 
attack was, therefore, continued on the fronts of these two corps on the 
morning of September 19th, as it was essential that all objectives of the 
18th should be secured as early as possible, with a view to future operations. 

On the IX Corps front the 6th and 1st Divisions endeavoured to 
gain ground round the Quadrilateral, Fresnoy-le-Petit, and east of 
The events on the Berthaucourt. The 6th Division, attacking with the 
IX Corps front on Sep- 71st and 16th Brigades, encountered even greater 
tember 19th and 20th resistance at the Quadrilateral and at Fresnoy-le-Petit 
than on the 18th, and was unable to make any progress. Similar attempts 
by the 1st Division, east of Berthaucourt, were checked by heavy machine- 
gun fire ; on the other hand a counter-attack, launched against the 1st 
Division at Berthaucourt at 8 a.m., was completely repulsed. The 34th 
French Division, operating on the right of, and in conjunction with, the 
6th Division, attacked Manchester Hill during the morning, but was 
unsuccessful. The situation at Rovind Hill still hung in the balance. 
The enemy was now holding naturally strong positions about Francilly- 
Selency, at the Quadrilateral, and at Fresnoy-le-Petit, and it was quite 



136 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY [Sept. i^H-2(>rii 

evident that he did not contemplate relinquishing them without a deter- 
mined struggle. Moreover, after three days' severe fighting, the men of the 
6th Division, in whose case the battle had begun on the 17th, were begin- 
ning to feel the strain.^ Sir Walter Braithwaite, therefore, decided not to 
attempt any further attack, until preparations could be made for one on 
a larger scale, supported by organised artillery and machine-gun barrages. 
Throughout the remainder of the day fighting of a desultory nature con- 
tinued on the whole of the IX Corps front, several bombing encounters 
taking place in the neighbourhood of Fresnoy-le-Petit. 

During the night of September 19th the troops of the 6th Division 
finally gained possession of Holnon village, which for three days had been 
the scene of continuous fighting and had changed hands several times. 

Except for persistent hostile shelling of Holnon Wood, and for a small 
attack by the enemy against Berthaucourt which met with no success, 
September 20th passed quietly. 

During the night of September 18th the 58th Division, on the left 

of the III Corps, had succeeded in gaining the northern part of Poplar 

Trench, and the 12th Division had secured Tetard Wood. 

The events on the Qj^ ^Y\e morning of September 19th an operation on a 

tembeT'r9th'and°20*th larger scale was carried out by the 18th and 12th 

Divisions to secure Lempire village, Lempire, Yak, and 

Zebra posts, and the trenches along the southern slopes of the Catelet 

valley, including Braeton Post, south of Little Priel Farm. This 

operation, which was carried out chiefly by means of bombing attacks 

along the trenches, met with partial success. The 18th Division 

encountered heavy machine-gun fire from X, Y, and Z copses, which had 

given so much trouble in the fighting of the previous day, but, after a 

struggle, Lempire village was cleared, and Lempire, Yak, and Zebra posts 

were secured. The 12th Division captured May Copse and INIalassise Farm, 

and our line was advanced 1,000 yards beyond Old Copse; touch was, 

however, lost with the 18th Division on the right, and was not regained 

until the next day. 

September 20th was remarkable for the number of more or less 
isolated, and at the same time hotly contested struggles, which took 
place for the possession of small lengths of trenches. The enemy in front 
of the 18th Division evacuated X, Y, and Z copses, thereby indicating 
that he had given up the idea of regaining Ronssoy and Epehy. These 
small posts were occupied, but, beyond advancing our line to Sart 
Farm, little further progress was made by the 18th Division. The enemy 
had taken up new positions in the old British outpost line, and held 
Braeton Post and the trenches around Little Priel Farm in strength. 
Although the 12th and 58th Divisions gained some ground, they were 
unable to capture the whole of their objectives, as the Alpine Corps 
defended every post, trench, and copse with great stubbornness. 

The fighting of the past three days had now brought the III Corps 
to within a short distance of the outer defences of the main Hindenburg 
Line. On the right the 74th Division had gained a footing in these defences, 

' The 6th Division had had a very trying and difficult time, as, owing to the French being 
unable to advance, the right flank of the division was constantly enfiladed. 








w 




PQ 




a 




< 








*^ 






00 


h 


K- 




0^ 






I 




CJ 


« 


"^ 


W 


I 


2 






r^ 


S 




w 


o 


H 


H 


Ph 




w 


O 


OT 


y. 




^ 
J 


Q 
Z 


w 


t: 






5 


1 


^ 


(J 


•^ w 


« 


X 


< 


H 


1^. 


u. 


z'. 


o 




h 


Q 


1-^ 


Z 


U 


< 


« 




W 


(^ 


fl ai 


>-* 


i w 


0^ 


a: 




h 


'y. 


5 c 






*' ^ 


O 


I »— 


tq 


o 




: K 


e 


M 


w 


4 


H 


"■; s 


O 


« 


w 


J 5 






I^ 


:: h 


■Vj 


1 z 




2 








■ r'. 




'. W 




w J 




►J 





^ 



[Sept. 20th-22nd THE ADVANCE TO THE HINDENBURG LINE 137 

but the 18th and 12th Divisions, at the beginning of their task, were 
confronted with formidable redoubts such as Duncan Post, Tombois 
Farm, Braeton Post, and Little Priel Farm, all of which played a prominent 
part in the fighting of the next few days. It now became clear that 
another organised attack would have to be made, if we wished to make 
further progress on the III Corps front. Preparations for this were at 
once begun, as it was essential that we should gain the whole of the 
enemy's outer defences as early as possible, especially the important 
localities of Quennemont Farm, Gillemont Farm, and The Knoll. The chief 
importance of these places to us was that, so long as they were held by the 
enemy, it would be very difficult to move our artillery sufficiently far forward 
for it to be able to support our attacking troops with an efficient barrage 
beyond the main Hindenburg Line. After careful consideration. Sir 
Henry Rawlinson decided that they must be secured, even though this 
involved a preliminary operation of some magnitude. 

Meanwhile, after the success of the British attacks on September 
18th, and of the American attack on the St. Mihiel salient on September 

The decision to attack ^?^^^' ^* ^^^ ^^^? decided between Marshal Foch and 

the Hindenburg Line ; Sir Douglas Haig that four convergent and simul- 

the Fourth Army taneous offensivcs should be launched by the Allies, 

reinforced ^^g y^y ^^le Americans west of the Meuse in the direction 

of Mezieres, the second by the French west of the Argonne in close con- 
junction with the American attack and in the same direction, the third by 
the British on the St. Quentin-Cambrai front in the general direction 
of Maubeuge, the fourth by the Belgian and Allied forces in Flanders in the 
direction of Ghent. 

The most important and critical of these attacks was the one to be 
undertaken by the British Armies against the Hindenburg Line.^ 

On September 22nd the following orders for the British attack on 
the St. Quentin-Cambrai front were issued by General Headquarters — 

" The First Army will attack on ' Z ' Day (September 27th) with a 
view to capturing the heights of Bourlon Wood in the first instance. It 
will then push forward and secure its left on the Sensee River and operate 
so as to protect the left of the Third Army. 

' In the words of his despatch of December 21st, 1918, Sir Douglas Haig's views were that — 
" The results to be obtained from these different attacks depended in a peculiarly large 
degree upon the British attack in the centre. It was here that the enemy's defences were 
most highly organised. If these were broken, the threat directed at his vital systems of lateral 
communication would of necessity react upon his defence elsewhere. 

" On the other hand, the long period of sustained offensive action through which the 
British Armies 1 ad already passed had made large demands both upon the troops themselves 
and upon my available reserves. Throughout our attacks from the 8th August onwards 
our losses in proportion to the results achieved and the numbers of prisoners taken had been 
consistently and remarkably small. In the aggregate, however, they were considerable, and 
in the face of them an attack upon so formidably organised a position as that which now 
confronted us could not be lightly undertaken." Moreover, the political effects of an 
unsuccessful attack upon a position so well known as the Hindenburg Line would be large, 
and would go far to revive the declining moral not onlv of the German Army but of the 
(Jerman people. 

" These different considerations were present to my mind. The probable results of a 
costly failure, or, indeed, of anj^hing short of a decided success, in any attempt upon the 
main defences of the Hindenburg Line were obvious ; but I was convinced that the British 
attack was the essential part of the general scheme, and that the moment was favourable. 
Accordingly I decided to proceed with the attack. . . ." 



138 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY [Sept. 20th-22nd 

" The Third Army will operate in the direction of the general line 
Le Cateau-Solesmes. It will attack on ' Z ' Day (September 27th) in 
conjunction with the First Army and will press forward to secure the 
passages of the Canal de I'Escaut so as to be in a position to co-operate 
closely with the Fourth Army on ' Z ' +2 day (September 29th). The 
Third Army will assist the Fourth Army with counter-battery work on 
the enemy's guns in the region La Terriere-Villers Outreaux. 

" The Fourth Army, protected on its right flank by the First French 
Army, will deliver the main attack against the enemy's defences from 
Le Tronquoy to Le Catelet, both inclusive, operating in the direction 
of the general line Bohain-Busigny. The bombardment will commence 
on ' Z ' day (September 27th) and the assault will be delivered on ' Z ' 
+ 2 day (September 29th)." i 

On receipt of the above orders, Sir Henry Rawlinson issued his 
own orders for the attack ; these will be explained in the next chapter. * 

The following reinforcements were placed at the disposal of the Fourth 
Army : 

The XIII Corps Headquarters, with the 25th, 50th, and 66th Divisions. 

The II American Corps Headquarters, with the 27th and 30th American 
Divisions. 

Before proceeding with the narrative of events after September 

20th, it will be well to relate very briefly the distribution of these 

reinforcements, and the consequent changes in dis- 

^* ^the^twnt*" ° positions which resulted between September 21st and 

25th. 

On September 20th orders were issued b}' Sir Henry Rawlinson 
for the readjustment of the Fourth Army front, which was to commence 
on the night of September 21st ; as the result of it the boundaries 
and dispositions of troops prior to the attack on the main Hindenburg 
Line would be as follows : — 

The IX Corps would have the 6th, 1st, and 46th Divisions in line, 
from right to left, and the 32nd Division in reserve, on a front of some 
10,000 yards from the junction of the Fourth Army with the First French 
Army, immediately north-west of Francilly-Selency, to a point on the ridge 
just south of Buisson Gaulaine Farm. This necessitated the relief of the 
4th Australian Division by the 46th Division. 

The combined Australian and II American Corps would have the 
30th and 27th American Divisions in line, the 5th and 3rd Australian 
Divisions in support, and the 2nd Australian Division in reserve, from the 
northern boundary of the IX Corps, just south of Buisson Gaulaine Farm, 
to opposite The Knoll ; a front of 8,000 yards, practically facing the 
Bellicourt tunnel. This necessitated the relief of the 74th, 18th, 

• The dates in brackets were not in the original order, but were fixed afterwards. The 
Franco-American attack in the direction of Mezieres was to take place on September 26th, and 
the Allied attack in Belgium on September 28th. 

* It must be understood that there were two attacks in view — the preliminary attack against 
the outer defences of the Hindenburg Line on the III and IX Corps fronts, and the main attack 
against the Hindenburg Line itself on September 29th. The Army Commander's orders, referred 
to here, only dealt with the preparations for the main attack, but preparations for the 
preliminary attack by the troops already in the line were going on simultaneously. 



Sept. 20rH-25TH] THE ADVANCE TO THE HINDENBURG LINE 139 

and 1st Australian Divisions by American troops. The whole of the 
Australian and American troops were to be under the command of Sir 
John Monash, with whom General Read, commanding the II American 
Corps, would work in the closest touch ; the reason for this arrangement 
will be explained later. 

North of the Austrahan and II American Corps, the III Corps, shortly 
to be reduced to two divisions owing to the departure of the 74th and 
58th Divisions to another army, would hold a narrow front of 3,000 
yards to the northern boundary of the Fourth Army east of Peizieres, 
with the 12th Division in line and the 18th Division in reserve. 

The XIII Corps, with the 25th, 50th, and 66th Divisions, would be in 
army reserve. 

This redistribution was to be complete by September 25th. 

The readjustment was carried out as ordered. On September 
19th the 46th Division was transferred to the IX Corps and concentrated 
in the Tertry area.^ On the night of September 21st this division took 
over the line from Berthaucourt to a point just south of Buisson Gaulaine 
Farm, reHeving the 4th Australian Division and a portion of the 1st 
British Division. On relief, the 4th Australian Division was moved to 
a rest area near Amiens. The 1st Division was now able to side-slip 
southwards and thus shorten the front of the 6th Division. This enabled 
the IX Corps to hurry on with their preparations for securing the high 
ground between Selency, Fayet, and Fresnoy-le-Petit, which it was 
desirable to capture as a preliminary to the attack on the main 
Hindenburg Line. 

On September 22nd and 23rd the 27th and 30th Divisions of the 
II American Corps commenced to arrive in the Fourth Army area by 'bus 
and train, and were concentrated in the Tincourt and Haut-AUaines areas 
prior to going into the line on the Australian Corps front. On the night 
of September 23rd the 30th American Division relieved the 1st Australian 
Division in the line from a point just south of Buisson Gaulaine Farm 
to Malakoff Farm. On relief, the 1st Australian Division was moved 
back to a rest area near Abbeville.^ 

On September 23rd the arrangements necessary to enable the 27th 
American Division to take over the remainder of the new front of the Aus- 
trahan Corps were completed, and on the night of September 24th this 
division reUeved the 74th and 18th Divisions. On relief, the 74th Division 
was transferred to the Fifth Army, and the 58th Division to the First Army. 
The command of the front of the composite American and Australian 
Corps passed to Sir John Monash at 10 a.m. on September 25th. 

While these moves in the forward area were in progress, the XIII 
Corps, commanded by Lieut. -Gen. Sir Thomas Morland, arrived 
in the Fourth Army area from the Fifth Army, and took over the 
25th Division, commanded by Maj.-Gen. J. R. E. Charles, the 
50th Division, commanded by Maj.-Gen. H. C. Jackson, the 66th 
Division, commanded by Maj.-Gen. H. K. Bethell, and the 18th 

' Tertrv is about 4 miles west of Holnon Wood. 

' Although they did not realise it, the 1st and 4th Australian Divisions had fought their 
last, but not least successful, battle in the Great War. 



140 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY [Sept. 21st-22nd 

Division from the III Corps. Of these, the 18th and 50th Divisions 
were both in the III Corps area, and the 25th and 66th, with the XIII 
Corps Headquarters, were in army reserve near Albert, ready to move up 
as soon as required.^ 

To resume the narrative of the attacks on the outer defences of the 

Hindenburg Line. Little of importance occurred on the front of the IX 

The m Corps attacks Corps and on the southern half of the Australian Corps 

on September 21st- front between September 21st and 23rd. There was a 

^^°^ small hostile attack near Berthaucourt on the evening of 

the 22nd, which was easily repulsed. 

On the front of the III Corps, however, there was much activity. 
It had been decided on the 20th to make an organised attack against the 
enemy's advanced positions at Duncan Post, Tombois Farm, Braeton Post, 
and Little Priel Farm, which he was holding very strongly, and then with- 
out delay to secure Quennemont Farm, Gillemont Farm, and The Knoll, 
the capture of which would place the whole of the outer defences of the 
Hindenburg Line, north of Bellenglise, in our possession. 

In order to attain this object, an attack was launched on the morning 
of September 21st along the whole front of the III Corps, assisted on the 
right by the 1st Australian Division, which captured Ruby Wood, and 
gained a footing in Malakoff Wood, capturing 51 prisoners. At the same 
time the V Corps of the Third Army attacked the trench system running 
due south from Villers Guislain. 

On the front of the III Corps the 74th Division was given as its 
objective Quennemont Farm, Quennet Copse, and Gillemont Farm ; 
the 18th Division was given The Knoll ; the 12th Division Braeton Post 
and Little Priel Farm ; and the 58th Division the trench systems round 
Dados Loop, north of Little Priel Farm. Four tanks of the 2nd Tank 
Battalion were detailed to assist the 74th Division, and seven tanks of 
the same battalion the 18th Division. The assault was delivered at 
5.40 a.m. under cover of a creeping barrage. Before " zero " the enemy's 
artillery fire was severe ; it increased when our barrage fell at " zero," 
and remained heavy all day. The action which ensued lasted during 
the whole of September 21st and continued throughout that night with 
unabated violence until the early hours of September 22nd. 

On the right, the 74th Division reached both Quennemont Farm 
and Gillemont Farm, in addition to Quennet Copse and Cat Post.^ The 
tanks assisting this division were unable to give any assistance, as two 
broke down before reaching the " starting line," and the remaining two 

' These four divisions remained in the XIII Corps until the end of the campaign. 

The 25th Division had just been reformed from battalions drawn from the 7th, 23rd, and 48th 
Divisions in Italy. 

The 50th Division was composed of battalions brought from Egypt and Salonika, in June, 
since when they had been training and undergoing treatment for malaria. 

The 66th Division was composed of the South African Brigade under Brig.-Gen. Tanner, 
and two brigades composed of battalions which had come from Egypt and Salonika, at the same 
time as those of the 50th Division, and had since then been training and undergoing treatment 
for malaria. 

* The enemy, however, foimd his way back into Cat Post through a gap which then 
existed between the 74th and 18th Divisions. This post was recaptured during the night by the 
10th King's Shropshire Light Infantry in a very gaUant maimer, together with 200 prisoners and 
30 machine-guns, although the battalion had been reduced by that time to under 200 men. 



Sept. 21st-22nd] THE ADVANCE TO THE HINDENBURG LINE 141 

were put out of action by hostile artillery fire early in the day. The 18th 
Division secured Duncan Post and Doleful Post, but, on approaching The 
Knoll, the attack broke down before the annihilating fire of the machine- 
guns holding that locality and Tombois Farm. Five of the seven tanks 
which supported the attack were put out of action at various stages of 
the advance, and only one reached The Knoll. Those of the crews of 
these tanks, who had the good fortune to return from the fight, reported 
that the machine-gun fire had often been so hea\y that they had been 
unable to work their guns. Before this machine-gun fire was encountered, 
the 53rd Brigade of the 18th Division had succeeded in pushing forward 
to Egg Post, but was almost immediately counter-attacked and driven 
back. While this fighting was taking place, the 12th Division gained a 
footing in Braeton Post, and the attack of the 58th Division reached a line 
some 300_ yards short of Dados Loop, 

Frorri this time onward the enemy's resistance became even more 
determined. The troops of the 230th Brigade were ejected from Quenne- 
mont Farm by a counter-attack, and eventually held a line slightly in 
advance of their original " starting line." The troops of the 231st Brigade, 
which had succeeded in reaching Gillemont Farm, held out until 2 p.m., 
and then fell back to the general line which was being consolidated ; 
the troops of the 18th Division, which had succeeded in penetrating to 
Duncan Post and Doleful Post, were forced to withdraw. The 12th Divi- 
sion was unable to advance further on account of heavy machine-gun 
fire from Little Priel Farm and He}i;horp Post. By 5 p.m. it was clear 
that the objectives assigned for the day's operations could not be gained 
without fresh impetus, although attempts were still being made to push 
forward. 

Exhibiting the same splendid spirit that they had shown all through 
their advance, the troops of the III Corps refused to admit defeat without 
another attempt to gain their objective. In spite of the heavy fighting 
and the many disappointments which the 21st had yielded, all ranks 
realised the imperative necessity of pressing forward and allowing the 
enemy no respite. At 12.15 a.m., therefore, on September 22nd the attack 
was resumed, and the troops advanced in the bright moonlight without 
much difficulty. The artillery supplied the requisite support by putting 
down a creeping barrage. 

By daylight on the 22nd the 7-ith Division again held Cat Post ; 
the 18th Division had secured Duncan and Doleful Posts ; the 12th 
Division had captured Heythorp Post and Little Priel Farm ; and the 
58th Division Dados Loop. Some further progress was made later in 
the day, when Braeton Post was again captured. During the afternoon 
of the 22nd the enemy launched several counter-attacks ; one against 
the 74th Division just south of Duncan Post, and another against the 
18th Division in the vicinity of Doleful Post; these were driven off 
with heavy loss to the enemy. In the evening, following on the repulse 
of another counter-attack from the direction of Gillemont Farm, in which 
our artillery caused heavy losses to the attacking infantry, the 11th 
Royal Fusiliers of the 18th Division, taking advantage of the confusion 
amongst the retreating enemy, left its trenches in pursuit and captured 



142 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY [Sept. 22nd-24th 

a strong point with 80 prisoners near Duncan Post, which had been hold- 
ing them up all day.^ Thus the bitter fighting of the past forty-eight 
hours had placed the III Corps in possession of a large part of the important 
positions which had been its objectives since September 18th. 

During the next few days a number of small operations were under- 
taken by the 18th Division with a view to improving our line by capturing 
Tombois Farm and Egg Post, but without success. Further north the 
12th Division, which had relieved the 58th Division on the night of Sep- 
tember 23rd, was driven out of Dados Loop by a hostile counter-attack. 
Although the enemy also made persistent efforts to regain the posts he 
had lost, the line remained practically unchanged till the III Corps was 
relieved by the Americans on the night of September 24th. 

It was important for the IX Corps both to gain observation over the 

main Hindenburg Line, and to improve the position on its right flank, 

The IX Corps opera- prior to the general attack on the 29th, and Sir Walter 

tions on September Braithwaite devoted all his attention to attaining these 

^^^^ objects. The IX Corps, therefore, resumed operations 

on the morning of September 24th against Selency and the Quadrilateral, 

which had been causing the 6th Division so much trouble, and also against 

Fresnoy-le-Petit and the high ground north of Gricourt. A fresh battalion 

of Mark V tanks, the 13th, was allotted to the IX Corps for this attack. 

The right flank was to be secured by the First French Army, which was to 

attack Francilly-Selency and Manchester Hill. 

The attack was launched at 5 a.m. On the right the 6th Division, 
supported by eight tanks, moved forward towards Selency, the Quad- 
rilateral, and the high ground north of the latter place. The 1st Division 
in the centre pressed forward through Fresnoy-le-Petit, and also south 
and north of the village towards the high ground about Mont Needle 
and the hook-shaped ridge north of Gricourt. Twelve tanks assisted the 
attack of the 1st Division, and were employed to reduce the enemy's re- 
sistance in Fresnoy-le-Petit and in the wood north-east of the village. Simul- 
taneously the 46th Division on the left attacked Pontruet and Ste. Helena. 

Although the attack was apparently expected by the enemy, satis- 
factory progress was made on the whole of the corps front, except on the 
right at the Quadrilateral and Selency. Here, as on previous occasions, 
the enemy offered a stout resistance and checked the advance early in 
the day. By 8 a.m., however, the 6th Division had gained a footing in 
the trench system immediately west of Selency and in the western and 
northern portions of the Quadrilateral. The neighbourhood of the Quad- 
rilateral was the scene of continuous bombing throughout the day. At 
nightfall, there were still some Germans in the Quadrilateral itself, and a 
German post still held out south of the Quadrilateral between the right 
of the 6th Division and the French. A well executed moonlight attack, 
carried out by the 1st Leicestershire of the 71st Brigade about 11 p.m., 
secured the post south of the Quadrilateral. 

In the centre the 1st Division made good progress. Fresnoy-le- 
Petit was cleared by the 3rd Brigade, but heavy fire from machine-gims 

• The stout resistance made in this area was partly accounted for by the reinforcement of the 
Alpine Corps and 2nd Guard Division by the 232nd Division. 



Sept. 24th] THE ADVANCE TO THE HINDENBURG LINE 143 

olding Marronniers Wood was then encountered. Outflanking these 
machine-guns, the 3rd Brigade pushed on to its objectives west and south 
of Gricourt and secured them by noon. The machine-guns at Marron- 
niers Wood held out until finally overcome at 5 p.m., when 5 officers and 
130 other ranks were captured in the wood. 

On the left front of the 1st Division the 2nd Brigade met with resist- 
ance at Cornouillers Wood, and sustained numerous casualties from 
machine-gun firing from positions in Pontruet, which the 46th Division 
had been unable to capture. Nevertheless, some of the brigade reached 
the high ground of the objective north of Gricourt, only to be practically 
annihilated by artillery fire, and by enfilade machine-gun fire from Pontruet. 
In this fighting the 1st Northamptonshire of the 2nd Brigade particularly 
distinguished itself in a very difficult position. A trench line between 
Gricourt and Pontruet was consolidated and held, despite numerous 
hostile counter-attacks to regain it. At one time, when counter-attacked 
by a force of over 400 of the enemy, the garrison, consisting of men of 
the 2nd Royal Sussex, finding themselves temporarily short of ammu- 
nition, moved a Lewis gun out in front of the trenches, and, under cover of 
its fire, delivered a bayonet charge which completely routed the enemy 
and succeeded in securing 50 prisoners.^ The 2nd Royal Sussex was 
later reinforced by the 2nd King's Royal Rifle Corps, which also did 
excellent work in repulsing the enemy's counter-attacks. 

Although Gricourt itself had not been given as one of the objectives 
for the day's operations, the 3rd Brigade captured it in the afternoon 
under cover of a hastily arranged bombardment. This operation by the 
3rd Brigade, fpllowing on the capture of Fresnoy-le-Petit, was a fine 
performance. Ably planned at short notice by the brigade commander, 
it was executed with great skill and determination, and well exemplifies 
the value of initiative by subordinate commanders. This success was 
followed at dusk by a local attack by the 2nd Brigade, which regained the 
high ground north of Gricourt. 

The failure of the 46th Division to secure Pontruet has already been 
mentioned. On the left, however, this division cleared Ste. Helene without 
difficulty. Its efforts to secure Pontruet were redoubled, when it was 
found that the possession of this village was so important for the success of 
the 1st Division attack, and by 8 a.m. the northern portion of the village 
had been captured together with a large number of prisoners ; - the 
enemy, however, still held the southern portion. At 7.30 p.m. the 46th 
Division made a further attempt to capture the southern portion of 
Pontruet, but was again unsuccessful.^ 

On the right of the IX Corps the XXXVI French Corps captured 
all its objectives except Manchester Hill, and secured the village of 
Francilly-Selency, together with 200 prisoners. 

■ These men belonged to two regiments of the 11th Division, which had been alarmed 
in its rest billets three hours before "zero" and hurried to the front. This division carried 
out three counter-attacks in the Gricourt area during the day and assisted in the defence 
of Pontruet. 

' It was in this attack that Lieutenant John Barrett, l/5th Leicestershire, so distinguished 
himself. See Appendix E, No. 3. 

» The total captures of the IX Corps during the fighting on the 24th exceeded 1,500 prisoners. 



144 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY [Sept. 25th-26th 

Taking advantage of the success attending the fighting of September 

24th, the 6th Division pushed forward strong fighting patrols during the 

night towards Selency and the Chateau. Bv 10.30 a.m. 

The pressure main- "=• , , . p c . u r.i-j.i. j.u » 

tained by the K Corps o» the mornmg ot September 25th, the enemy s mam 
on September 25th and resistance had been overcome, and the patrols were 
^^^ making good progress. Meanwhile, fighting was still 

in progress among the maze of trenches constituting the Quadrilateral, 
but by 6 p.m. the whole of it was in our hands, and Selency and 
Chateau Wood had also been secured. Although counter-attacked 
severely north of Gricourt during September 25th, the 1st Division 
retained all the ground it had gained on the 24th, and improved its 
position. 

The situation on the right of the IX Corps front was further improved 
on the morning of September 26th, when the 6th Division established 
our line well east of Selency and the Quadrilateral, and the French captured 
Manchester Hill. Thus the right flank of the Fourth Army was 
secure, and sufficient observation of the main Hindenburg Line had been 
gained. 

Meanwhile, the preparations for the attack to be launched against 

the main Hindenburg Line on September 29th were well in hand. At 

10.30 p.m. on September 26th the preliminary bombard- 

the^ Hindenburg^ Line nicnt for the attack by the Fourth Army on the main 

begun on September Hindenburg Line began with " BB " gas shell, ^ which 

^'•^ was used until 6 a.m. on the 27th, after which high 

explosive and shrapnel were employed. ^ This bombardment continued 

without intermission until " zero " on the 29th. 

Dixring the night of September 26th the 30th American Division 

improved its position at certain points with a view to securing a better 

" starting line." Further north the general line of 

the°27th*'and"30th Qucnnemont Farm-Gillemont Farm had been selected 

American Divisions on as the " starting line " of the 27th American Division. 

September 26th and 27th ^g^ however, in spite of great self-sacrifice and gallantry, 

the troops of the III Corps had been unable to capture this line before 

being relieved, it devolved on the 27th American Division to secure it. In 

order to attain this object, the 27th American Division, assisted by one 

company of tanks of the 4th Mark V Tank Battalion, attacked at 5.30 a.m. 

on September 27th, under cover of a powerful artillery barrage. Determined 

opposition was encountered from the 54th German Division, which had 

just relieved the 232nd Division, and a very involved situation supervened. 

Throughout the morning the fighting was most severe, as the enemy 

launched strong counter-attacks whenever any gain of ground was 

achieved by the Americans. In the afternoon the situation slightly 

improved, but all attempts to ascertain the exact situation failed, com- 

' The " BB" gas was almost identical with the German Yellow Cross, or " Mustard," Gas. 

' It was originally intended that the preliminary bombardment should begin at 6 a.m. on 
September 27th (see Sir Douglas Haig's orders on page 138), but when it was found that 30,000 
gas shell, the first consignment of shell filled with our new gas, would arrive from England in 
time and could be made available, it was arranged that the forty-eight hour bombardment with 
high explosive and shrapnel should be preceded by a gas bombardment lasting eight hours and 
beginning at 10 p.m. on the 26th. 



Sefi. 26TH-28T11] THE ADVANCE TO THE HINDENBURG LINE 145 

munication with the leading troops being almost impossible. Subsequent 
events, however, showed that although small parties of the 27th American 
Division had reached their objective and gallantly maintained themselves 
there, the line as a whole was not materially advanced by the day's 
operations. 

Meanwhile, good news had been received from other parts of the 

allied front. On September 26th and 27th the French and American 

The attacks ol the Armies had attacked on both sides of the Argonne 

Allied Armies on other between the Meusc and the Suippe, and had taken 
parts o£ the front over 8,000 prisoners. The difficulties, however, of 
the country and the communications rendered further advance slow, 
and gave the enemy time partially to recover and reorganise. The 
Third and First British Armies had attacked on September 27th on a 
front of thirteen miles, between Gouzeaucourt and the Sensee river, had 
made excellent progress, and had taken 10,000 prisoners. On September 
28th the advance of these two armies was continued, and their troops 
established themselves on the east bank of the Canal de I'Escaut at Marcoing. 
The enemy, however, made most determined efforts to prevent the Third and 
First Armies from extending their bridgeheads on either side of Cambrai. 
The Canal de I'Escaut formed a very formidable obstacle and rendered a 
further advance most difficult. That this would be so had been fully 
realised by General Headquarters, and the attack of the Fourth Army 
on September 29th was intended to turn the flank of the enemy's defences 
on the Third and First Army fronts, and enable a general advance to be 
continued. On September 28th the British, French, and Belgians, under 
the command of King Albert, had also attacked between the Lys and 
Dixmude and had met with complete success ; transpoi-t difficulties, how- 
ever, as in the case of the Americans and French, prevented a rapid advance 
after their initial victory. 

The Fourth Army had now been fighting for 51 days, driving the 

enemy from position to position. During this period it had employed 

The situation on the ^^ divisions to defeat 41 German divisions. The 

Fourth Army front on enemy's losses in prisoners alone, since August 8th, 
September 28th amounted to 46,500, including 1,100 officers, while 
our casualties in killed, wounded, and missing had reached 72,000. 

That the enemy intended to hold the Hindenburg Line to the utmost 
of his power and resources there was no reason to doubt ; not a single 
trench rumour of a further retirement reached us from prisoners. It was 
estimated that our attack on the 29th would be opposed between Le 
Tronquoy and Vendhuile by seven divisions, and that this line could be 
reinforced within 72 hours by six more divisions from reserve. ^ The 
mofal of the German troops, after their severe defeats, had undoubtedly 
much deteriorated and would continue to do so with every fi'esh retirement, 
but there still remained a considerable number of stout-hearted machine- 
gunners who could cause us much trouble, and there were certain regiments, 
and even divisions, that retained a good fighting spirit. The moral of our 

' Actually eight divisions were encountered : the 2nd, 8th. Hth, 54th, 75th Reserve, 79th 
Reserve, 121st and 185th Divisions ; six more joined in the battle within seventy-two hours : 
the 2ad Guard, 21st, 23th Reserve, 84th, 119th, and 221st Divisions. 

U 



146 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY [Sept. 28th 

own troops was continuing to rise every day with the consciousness of 
superiority over the enemy, and it was further increased by the arrival 
of the fresh British and American divisions which had reinforced the 
army since the 18th. 

We were undoubtedly face to face Avith a very strong position ; but 
all ranks realised the far-reaching issues of the result of the forthcoming 
attack, and, as on August 8th, there existed in the army the will to 
conquer, and the confidence in victory, that foreshadow success. 




< 

Q 



S 
a 

H 

M 
to 



i2 w 

= ;^; 

< O 

r- a; 

^ a. 



a 
< 

s 



o 



a 



"S 

I 



CHAPTER VIII 

THE STORMING OF THE HINDENBURG LINE, SEPTEMBER 29TH 

Maps 2, 8, and 10; and Panoramic Photographs 6 and 7. 

The German defences — The preparations for the attack — The communications — Secrecy — The 
temporary amalgamation of the Australian and II American Corps — The frontages of attack 
— The objectives — The co-ordination with flank armies — The artillery — The preliminary 
bombardment — The ammunition supply — The allotment of tanks — The special mission of 
the 5th Cavalry Brigade and the armoured cars — The role of the Cavalry Corps— The assembly 
of the troops— The assault — The IX Corps ; the action of rthe 1st Division — The capture 
of the first objective by the 46th Division — The advance of the 32nd Division to the second 
objective — ^The result of the day's fighting by the IX Corps — The Australian-American 
Corps ; the attack of the American divisions — The 30th American Division — The 27th 
American Division — The action of the 5th Australian Division — The action of the 3rd Aus- 
tralian Division— The armoured cars — The III Corps operations — The situation of the 
III Corps at dusk — The result of the battle — The orders for September 30th. 

The Hindenburg Line was selected and organised for defence in the 
latter end of 1916, and the work was continued dui-ing the spring of 1917. 

It was the direct result of the battle of the Somme, 
The German defences as it was to this line that the Germans retired in 

March, 1917, in order to shorten their line and make 
good the losses suffered during their defeats of the preceding summer 
and autumn. It was first discovered and photographed, by the 
4th Brigade, Royal Air Force, in February, 1917, thus confirming 
vague rumours of its existence received from refugees repatriated by 
the enemy through Switzerland.^ Since March, 1918, when the British 
Army had been driven back, the Hindenburg defences had been unoccupied 
and more or less neglected. 

In addition to our previous knowledge of the line, further valuable 
information had been acquired. On August 8th a defence scheme, 
complete in every detail, for the Hindenburg Line between the Oise and 
Bellicourt, was captured at a German Corps Headquarters. This document 
was undated, but was evidently drawn up early in 1917.- That the original 

' The country and nature of the defences were well known to the commander and staff of 
the Fourth Army, under whose direction careful reconnaissances of the line from St. Quentin to 
Havrincourt had been carried out between April and July, 1917. 

^ This document, in addition to showing all the treriehes and wire, gave the position of eveiy 
battery, its calibre, barrage lines, and observation posts ; the position of all sound-ranging and 
flash spotting sections ; the location of every artillery and infantry headquarters and of all battle 
stations ; and that of every dug-out, both concrete and otherwise, and of every machine- 
gun emplacement. It also revealed to us the rear organisation, that is to say, the divisional sectors ; 
ammunition and supply dumps ; railheads ; billets and camps, specifying the accommodation 
for men and horses ; the signal communication and electric power installations ; and the selected 
places for balloon slieds and landing grounds. 

147 



148 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY [Sept 22nd-28th 

policy for the defence of the Hindenburg Line was one of rigid defence, is 
clearly shown in the following extracts from this document : 

" The Siegfried Line makes full use, along extended stretches, 
of the front line of defences afforded by the Bellicourt-St. Quentin 
Canal. . . . The strength of these defences, increased as it is by 
inundated areas, the very extensive possibilities of mutual flanking 
support by the different sectors, and the, generally considered, good 
artillery observation render the line very strong. Added to this 
is the advantage that the Siegfried Line, having been reconnoitred 
without interference from the enemy, and plans having been drawn 
up for its occupation by troops of all arms, a systematic withdrawal 
from the outpost positions can be effected. 

" The Siegfried Line is considered to afford the most favourable 
conditions for a stubborn defence by a minimum garrison. It is 
therefore adapted to the requirements of obstinate close combat. 

" Its position, behind the natural defences offered by the Belli- 
court-St. Quentin Canal, affords the enemy free use of many favourable 
points of observation close in front of it. The use of these points by 
the enemy must be hindered as long as possible. For this reason 
outposts will be established before the Siegfried Line with the object 
of maintaining contact with the enemy and obstructing his recon- 
naissance. These will retire on the Siegfried Line before an enemy 
attack. It is the duty of the Command to prevent any decisive 
action being fought further forward than the first line of defence of 
the Siegfried Line which is prepared for a stubborn defensive. It 
must be clearly understood by units of all arms that the battle will 
be fought from the first line trenches of the Siegfried Line." 

It must, however, be remembered that, since this document was 
written, the superiority, under modern conditions, of defence in depth 
over a rigid defence had been universally recognised. There is little 
doubt that this change in policy, to a certain extent, altered the plans for 
occupying the line previous to our attack, and added to the confusion 
and disorganisation of the enemy. 

The attack of the Fourth Army involved the surmounting of two 
widely different types of obstacle. In the southern half of the front, 
where the St. Quentin Canal runs through open country, the enemy's 
main defence line was sited east of the canal, which provided a naturally 
formidable obstacle on its immediate front. The trenches in this part 
of the line were not so formidable as in the northern, or tunnel, sector. 
Along the whole length of the canal bank, however, concrete machine-gun 
emplacements had been constructed to enfilade the wire, which was erected 
along the inside slopes of the western bank. Moreover, in order to keep 
the water at a sufficient depth, the canal had been dammed at Bellenglise ; 
in consequence, the canal bed south of the village was dry for a certain 
distance. 

In the northern half of the front, where the St. Quentin Canal runs 
through the Bellicourt tunnel, the main defences, also of an extremely 
formidable nature, were sited on the western side of the canal tunnel, 



<, 




z- 

o 

h 
u 

OS 

H 
'/) 
Z 

o 
u 

u< 
o 



o 



►J 
w 
z 
z 

H 

Q 
z 

:3 
o 

« 
w 

Q 

z 

:= 

w 

X 
h 

O 
Z 

> 

o 

s 

CO 

o 
z 
w 
►J 
►J 
w 
m 



Sept. 22ND-2*rHj THE STORMING OF THE HINDENBURG LINE 149 

and consisted of two or three strong lines of trenches, each protected by 
several thick belts of wire. Furthermore, the tunnel itself, which was con- 
nected by passages with the ground level, provided good cover for reserves. 
Besides these main defences, numerous trenches had been constructed 
at various points to counteract local weaknesses, or to take advantage of 
the lie of the ground and give a good field of fire. The villages of Bellen- 
glise, Bellicourt, and Bony had been strongly fortified. 

The whole scheme, combining, as it did, the skilful use of the ground 
with artificial aid in the shape of wire, dug-outs, and machine-gun em- 
placements, and with the judicious disposition of field and machine-guns, 
had undoubtedly resulted in the creation of a very strong defensive 
position, which well merited the reputation attached to it. A study 
of the defence scheme, however, showed that the German 
High Command fully realised that there were weak points in the position, 
and this was confirmed by the manner in which the enemy was fighting 
for every inch of ground in his outer defences. One serious drawback to 
the Bellicourt tunnel defences was the fact that the high ground about 
Quennemont Farm, Gillemont Farm, and The Knoll, when no longer in 
German possession, gave magnificent observation over them, and also 
provided the necessary cover for artillery to approach to close quarters 
for the purpose of dealing with the belts of wire that protected the defences. 
Another weakness was the salient at Bellenglise, which, overlooked as it 
was from the high ground both to the south and north-west, was very 
vulnerable to the converging fire of artillery. Further, owing to the 
configuration of the ground, it was difficult for the enemy, once the outer 
defences were lost, to find positions, not under hostile observation,'- 
in which to place his artillery or collect his reserves for counter-attack. 
Full advantage of these weaknesses was taken in drawing up the plan 
of attack and in allotting the objectives. 

Behind the main Hindenburg Line there was only one single line of 
trenches to arrest our progress. This line, of which the wiring was not 
complete, ran from Lesdins to Le Catelet, passing west of Magny-la-Fosse 
and Nauroy.2 It is true that there was another line further east, namely 
the Masni^res-Beaurevoir-Fonsomme Line ; this, however, was 5,000 to 
6,000 yards away from the main Hindenburg Line, and was too far 
distant to play any part in the defence of the canal. ^ 

Such, then, was the nature of the defences opposed to us. It has fallen 
to the lot of few commanders to be provided with such detailed information 
as to the nature of the enemy's defences as was furnished by the German 
memorandum and maps already referred to. 

The orders issued by Sir Henry Rawlinson on September 22nd * 

' By constructing underground tunnels, especially a very extensive one between Bellenglise 
and Magny-la-Fosse, the Germans had overcome to a considerable extent the difliculty of massing 
supports and reserves presented by the lie of the ground. The captured plans, corroborated by 
prisoners' statements and photographs, had, however, revealed to us the exact position of these 
tunnels and of their exits ; with this knowledge in our possession, they became to the Germans a 
source of weakness rather than of strength. 

* Usually called the Hindenburg reserve, or Le Catelet-Nauroy, line. 

' Opposite the Fourth Army front the northern part of this line was called the Masnieres — 
Beaurevoir, and the southern part the Beaure\'oir — Fonsomme Line. 

• See page 138. 



150 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY [Sept. 22nd-28th 

defined the general plan of attack, and were amplified on subsequent 
days by a series of instructions dealing with the details 

"*' theTacr "" Of the operation. 

The preliminary arrangements for the attack were, 
generally speaking, identical with those for August 8th, but the IX Corps, 
in addition, had to make special preparations for crossing the canal. For 
this purpose 3,000 life-belts were obtained and issued to the storming 
troops, as were also a few light portable boats and a number of ladders 
for scaling the banks of the canal. On the day prior to the attack these 
were tested with success on the banks of the Somme. 

Much work had to be carried out to improve the forward communica- 
tions, which were practically non-existent. Roads, rapidly constructed 

in each divisional sector, were definitely allotted to 
The communications infantry, artillery, and tanks, and were clearly marked 

by signboards throughout. Units with distant objec- 
tives were given priority on certain roads between prescribed hours. 
Pioneer battalions and road construction companies were told off to 
improve certain roads as the attack progressed. Furthermore, the IX 
and III Corps made special arrangements for the repair of the bridges 
over the canal at Bellenglise and Vendhuile, as soon as those places should 
be accessible. Railway construction was also pressed on Avith the utmost 
energy, as it would be impossible to maintain our ammunition supply to 
the guns unless the railway reached Roisel and Montigny Farm before the 
bombardment commenced. 

It was decided that, as the enemy would necessarily expect an early 
attack on the St. Quentin- Vendhuile front, a strategical surprise of the 

nature of that of August 8th was out of the question. A 
Secrecy tactical surprise, however, would still be possible, that 

is to say the date and hour of our attack might be kept 
from the enemj' until the assault was actually launched. As regards this 
question, it must be remembered that the conditions obtaining on August 8th 
and those on September 29th were radically different. In the former case 
the enemy's wire and defences were practically non-existent, and no 
wire-cutting or destruction of strong points and machine-gun emplace- 
ments was required. Moreover, the Germans early in August still had a 
considerable number of divisions in reserve in the western theatre, which 
they could send to reinforce the Amiens front if they received warning 
of the attack. A strategical surprise was, therefore, all important on 
August 8th in order to attain a decisive success at small cost, whilst a 
preliminary bombardment would not have materially contributed to the 
success of the attack, and might, by destroying all chance of surprise, have 
involved its failure. On September 29th, on the other hand, we were 
face to face with very strong defences. These included numerous belts 
of wire, concrete emplacements, and defended villages, all of which must 
be subjected to a very heavy bombardment prior to the assault, if they 
were to be captured without prohibitive losses ; on the canal front, south 
of Bellicovirt, it was not possible to employ tanks. A strategical surprise, 
moreover, was no longer essential ; in fact, such was our superiority in 
men and moral, in artillery, tanks, and aeroplanes that it would positively 



h So.R.,„f«,p^t' I SI 



Ill^tlm)Ill>f . •nd iht cinal fmbun 




-IcO-. 



^^S^5^aP^«7;^<iS^K*^ 



-^ '*"-:?:s:^i«^?D' 



^^ ^ > w , I / ""'^Cii, ^^ I T|TTiijniMiir ^"-^^ 1 





/-e^^^r. 



BEM.ENGLISE and ilic ST. QUENTIN CANAl, 



r\ 



r\ 



Sept. 22nd-28th] THE STORMING OF THE HINDENBURG LINE 151 

be to our advantage if the enemy could be induced to increase the number 

of troops holding the line, as his losses would be all the heavier, and the 

result of the attack all the more decisive. A tactical surprise, however, 

would undoubtedly result in reducing our casualties, and all efforts were 

devoted to attaining it. The necessity of maintaining the strictest secrecy 

with regard to the projected operations was therefore impressed on all 

ranks, and orders were issued that all movement of troops and transport 

in an easterly direction, on and after September 23rd, should take place 

at night. 

The place of honour in the assault on the tunnel defences of the 

Hindenburg Line was allotted to the troops of the II American Corps, 

_,. . „ „, supported by three Australian divisions. Neither the 

The temporary amal- . "^ ^ . T • • ■ i tt » r^ i i 

gamation of the Aus- American divisions nor the 11 American Corps had, 

traiian and H American howevcr, any American artillery at their disposal, and, 
^°^^^ in consequence, all the artillery, both heavy and field, 

to support the attack of the 27th and 30th American Divisions, was 
supplied by the Australian Corps or from army resources. The corps 
signal organisation of the II American Corps had not been completed, and 
such personnel as was available had had no experience of the difficulties 
of signal communication in battle. Further, neither General Read, the 
II American Corps staff, nor the 27th and 30th American Divisions, had as 
yet had the experience of organising and mounting an attack of such 
magnitude, and on the results of which so much depended. 

It was, therefore, decided that, for the operation of breaking the 
Hindenburg Line, the 27th and 30th American Divisions should be affiliated 
to the Australian Corps and work under the direction of Sir John Monash 
and his staff, though in all other matters remaining under General Read's 
direct orders. The Americans would thus benefit by the extensive war 
experience of the Australian Corps, while maintaining the administrative 
unity of the II American Corps. The arrangement was no doubt some- 
what complicated, and might have led to difficulties, but for the loyalty 
of General Read and his subordinates, and the tact of the Australians. 
The II American Corps established its headquarters close to those of the 
Australian Corps, and was thus able to keep in close touch with the situa- 
tion. On September 24th, in order further to facilitate co-ordination, an 
Australian mission was formed and attached to the II American Corps. 
The object of this mission was to ensure that all American formations and 
units should be thoroughly acquainted with the methods of the Australians, 
and understand the orders they received. The personnel was carefvdly 
selected from all branches of the staff and from all arms, so that there 
should be an Australian officer, or senior non-commissioned officer, with 
every American unit down to a company of infantry. 

The front on which the Fourth Army launched its attack extended 

from Selency to Vendhuile, a distance of twelve miles. On the right, on 

f ^ front of 10,000 yards, the IX Corps was to attack from 

aSteck^ ° Selency to near Buisson Gaulaine Farm. The main 

attack of this corps, against Bellenglise and the canal 

north of it, was to be launched by the 46th Division, with the 32nd 

Division in support, while the 1st Division, operating between Gricourt 



152 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY [Sept. 22nd-28th 

and Bellenglise and keeping west of the canal, was to maintain touch with 
the 46th Division and press forward towards Thorigny and Le Tronquoy. 
South of Gricourt the 6th Division, though not taking an active part 
in the main attack, was to try to gain ground eastwards. 

In the centre the AustraUan-American Corps prolonged the front to 
near Tombois Farm, a distance of some 8,000 yards. On this front, the 
30th and 27th Divisions were to assault the tunnel defences around Belli- 
court and Bony respectively, with the 5th and 3rd Australian Divisions 
in support, and the 2nd Australian Division in reserve. 

On the left the III Corps held the remainder of the army front, 
some 3,000 yards, with the 12th Division in line and the 18th Division 
in reserve. Although not taking part in the main assault of the Hinden- 
burg Line, its mission was, nevertheless, very important. It was to secure 
the left flank of the Australian-American Corps by capturing the high 
ground south-west of Vendhuile, and later, when the Americans had 
crossed over the tunnel, by clearing Vendhuile and the area west of the 
canal in that vicinity. 

To the south of the Fourth Army the First French Army was to 
extend the attack as far as Essigny-le- Grand, operating on a front of six 
miles. To the north, the V and VI Corps of the Third British Army were 
to co-operate by attacking between Vendhuile and Marcoing. 

The first objective, or green line, extended from the northern entrance 

of the Le Tronquoy tunnel to the northern entrance of the Bellicourt 

tunnel, passing east of Lehaucourt, Magny-la- Fosse and 

The objectives Nauroy, west of Mont St. Martin, and thence round the 

eastern and northern outskirts of Gouy and Le Catelet. 

It entailed the storming of the canal and tunnel defences from Bellenglise 

to Vendhuile and the forcing of the Hindenburg reserve, or Le Catelet- 

Nauroy, Line, which would mean an advance by the IX Corps and the 

27th and 30th American Divisions of 4,000 to 5,000 yards. 

When this objective was gained, the Americans were to swing north 
and south ; to the north, with a view to cutting off the enemy holding 
Vendhuile, thus facilitating the task of the III Corps ; to the south, in 
order to gain touch with the bridgehead to be established by the IX Corps 
at Bellenglise.! This exploitation would also protect the flanks of the 
5th and 3rd Australian Divisions, as they moved through the American 
divisions towards the second objective. 

While the first objective was being consolidated, and while the 
American divisions were engaged in exploitation, the IX Corps and the 5th 
and 3rd Australian Divisions were to continue the advance to the second 
objective, or red line. In the case of the IX Corps, this was to be carried 
out by the 32nd Division, which was to " leap-frog " the 46th Division 
and secure the tunnel defences at Le Tronquoy and the high groimd round 
Levergies. This involved an advance beyond the first objective of from 
2,000 to 4,000 yards. At the same time the 1st Division, still operating 
west of the canal, was to secure Thorigny and gain touch with the 32nd 
Division at Le Tronquoy. The 5th and 3rd Australian Divisions, after 
" leap-frogging " the Americans, were to capture the Masnieres-Beaurevoir- 

• The extent of this exploitation is shown on Map 10 by the green dotted line. 



t^airfr} •«vu rrsrriM 







LINE. 



\^-^ 



S*«f* Aa. 7. 10 fau faf 162. 




BEIXICOURT and tlu' wire in In.ni .if the HINDENBURC LINE. 



o 



o 



Sept. 22nd-2Sth] THE STORMING OF THE HINDENBURG LINE 153 

Fonsomme Line from east of Joncourt to Guisancourt Farm and to exploit 
further east to Wiancourt and Beaurevoir, an advance of from 4,000 to 
5,000 yards beyond the first objective. It was expected that, even if our 
troops did not reach all the objectives, they would probably gain a 
footing in the Masnieres-Beaurevoir-Fonsomme Line on the first day. 

It had been decided that St. Quentin itself was not to be attacked 
by the First French Army, and that the French should cross the canal 
Th ordination th "°^^ ^"^ south of the town. In order to assist the 
^ "flank anniS ^ advance of the XV French Corps, which was on our 
immediate right, across the canal immediately north of 
St. Quentin, arrangements were made for this corps to have a right of 
way through the IX Corps area. It was also arranged that, as soon as 
the Le Tronquoy tunnel had been captured by the 32nd and 1st Divisions, 
the French were to take over the front held by the 6th Division from 
Selency to Gricourt. Then, when the whole of the 1st Division had 
passed over the Le Tronquoy tunnel, the French were to be given access 
to the Fresnoy-le-Petit-Thorigny-Le Tronquoy road, until such time as 
they were able to establish a passage over the canal at Lesdins. After 
crossing the tunnel at Le Tronquoy, the XV French Corps was to advance 
eastwards and south-eastwards within its boundary, in order to safeguard 
the right cf the Fourth Army and turn the enemy's position about 
Lesdins. 

On the northern flank of the army it was desirable that the 38th 
Division on the right of the V Corps should cross the canal and operate 
in a north-easterly direction, thus facilitating the passage over the canal 
of the other divisions of the V Corps. It was accordingly arranged that 
the 38th Division should have the right of way over Vendhuile bridge, as 
soon as it had been captured and repaired by the III Corps. 

In order to give the necessary volume of fire for the preliminary 

bombardment, which was to destroy the defences, cut the wire, and 

demoralise the garrison of the Hindenburg Line, 44 

The artiUery brigades of field artillery, 21 brigades of heavy artillery, 
and 4 long-range siege batteries were placed at the 
disposal of the army. These amounted in all to 1,044 field guns and 
howitzers, and 593 heavy gims and howitzers. 

In the gas bombardment, which opened at 10 p.m. on the 26th and 

was maintained intermittently until 6 a.m. on September 27th, 6,336 

howitzer and 26,101 18-pdr. " BB " gas shell were fired. 

'barTen? This gas bombardment took the form of concentrations 

of fire on localities of activity, such as headquarters and 
groups of batteries, as experience, gained from studving the enemy's 
methods, had shown that a bombardment with Yellow Cross gas was most 
efficacious when limited in this manner and not distributed promiscuously 
over a large area. 

At 6 a.m. on September 27th the artillery began to fire the remainder 
of Its programme, which was continued until " zero." This consisted 
of vigorous counter-battery and harassing fire, the cutting of lanes in the 
enemy's wire, and a sustained bombardment of selected strong points and 
defended localities. The bulk of the artillery was disposed around Hargi- 



154 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY [Sept. 22nd-28th 

court and Lempire, where the configuration of the ground was more adapted 
to the grouping of batteries than it was farther north and south ; 
there was also a big group at Le Verguier. Owing to atmospheric 
conditions, which curtailed photography and observation, it was 
impossible to locate the positions of hostile batteries with accuracy, 
but, nevertheless, our counter-batteries dealt with them effectively and 
were successful in reducing the enemy's fire. The subsequent examination 
of his gim positions revealed a satisfactory percentage of direct hits. The 
harassing fire was particularly good, and, as the result of it, the enemy's 
communications were cut in many places, and in numerous cases he was 
unable to send up either rations or reinforcements. 

The wire-cutting was carried out principally by 4*5-inch and 6-inch 
howitzers using instantaneous fuses ; where it was feasible 6-inch Newton 
mortars were used. In some places the wire was entirely swept away ; 
in others, lanes were cut through it, or it was severely damaged. 
Generally speaking, however, it was due less to the preliminary 
bombardment, and more to the demoralisation of the enemy, to 
the help of the tanks, and to the effective artillery covering fire, that 
our infantry was able to penetrate the wire defences on the day of the 
attack. 

The destruction of the deep tunnels and dug-outs was beyond the 
power of the artillery, and was not attempted, but their entrances and exits 
were subjected to heavy and unexpected concentrations, especially on 
September 29th. On the same day the telephone exchanges and the 
defended localities of Bellenglise, Nauroy, Bellicourt, and Bony were 
treated to a particularly heavy sheUing, which reduced them to heaps of 
rubble. The sides of the canal were hit at frequent intervals, and ramps 
of debris formed, up which the attacking infantry was able to scramble. 
The use made of enfilade fire proved remarkably effective. 

Provided as he was with substantial cover from shell fire, the enemy's 
losses in killed from the bombardment were probably not great, but it 
undoubtedly drove the defenders into their deep dug-outs and tunnels, 
so demoralising them that a large proportion failed to man their defences 
when they were attacked. 

The task of supplying over 1,600 gims with the requisite ammunition 

was by no means light. It must be realised that it had to be brought 

forward and dumped while the preliminary fighting was 

The ammunition supply actually in progress, and additional difficulty was caused 

by the unavoidably late running of trains on the newly 

opened line to Templeux-le-Guerard. Each day as many as fifteen 

ammunition trains had to be cleared, their loads of ammunition being 

moved forward by lorries, which, as often as not, were delayed by the 

congestion on the roads due to the movement of troops and supplies. 

When it is stated that from September 26th to October 4th 1,299,467 

rounds of artillery ammunition were expended, the magnitude of the task 

of supplying the ammunition for an attack of this nature becomes 

apparent. 

The existence of the canal necessarily limited the zone of activity 
of the tanks, and, for this reason, the majority were employed in conjunc- 



Sept 22nd-28th] THE STORMING OF THE HINDENBURG LINE 155 

tion with the Americans and Austrahans on the tunnel front, where the 
numerous belts of wire, and the strength of the 
"^"^ te^^°' "' defences, rendered the support of a large number of 
tanks essential. 
The Fourth Army was allotted the 3rd, 4th, and 5th Tank Brigades 
and the 17th Armoured Car Battalion for the operations. These were 
sub-allotted, the 3rd Brigade to the IX Corps, the 4th Brigade to the 
American divisions, and the 5th Brigade and the 17th Armoured Car 
Battalion to the Australians. Only a portion of the tanks allotted were 
to be engaged on the first day of the battle, as experience had showTi the 
necessity of keeping a large reserve in hand for subsequent days' fighting. 
Consequently, in the IX Corps only the 9th Mark V Tank Battalion of 
twenty-four tanks and one company of nine whippet tanks were to be 
employed on the first day. Of these, sixteen Mark V tanks were to assist 
the 46th Division in securing the first objective, and eight Mark V and the 
nine whippet tanks were to support the advance of the 32nd Division 
to the second objective. Their employment depended on the 30th 
American Division securing the tunnel defences round Bellicourt, as it 
had been arranged that all these tanks should cross the tunnel south 
of that village, and, moving along the east bank of the canal, should join 
their respective divisions in the advance eastward. In the case of the 
4th and 5th Tank Brigades supporting the American and Austrahan 
divisions, their tasks, although possibly more difficult, were straight- 
forward. The 4th Tank Brigade, comprising the 1st, 301st American, and 
4th Tank Battalions, all of which were either Mark V or Mark V star, 
was to assist the American divisions to gain the first objective.^ 

The employment of the tanks of the 5th Tank Brigade, except such 
tanks as were held in corps reserve, was to be governed by the principle 
that each tank unit, in liaison with a definite body of infantry, should 
undertake a specific operation. It was, therefore, definitely laid down 
by Sir John Monash that on no account were tank units of this brigade, 
on the completion of their mission, to be attached to another formation 
without reference to the Australian Corps Headquarters. From the 
point of view of the Tank Corps, this policy was welcomed as being the 
one likely to produce the best results, as it gave the tank brigade and 
battalion commanders a chance of husbanding resources, a most important 
consideration. The 5th Australian Division was allotted twenty-four 
tanks of the 8th Mark V Tank Battalion and eight whippet tanks of the 3rd 
Battalion, and the 3rd Australian Division twenty-four tanks of the 16th 
Mark V Tank Battalion and eight whippets of the 3rd Battalion. The 13th 
Mark V Tank Battalion, comprising twelve tanks, together with twelve 
tanks from the 16th Battalion, formed the corps reserve. These were 
to move up under orders from the 5th Tank Brigade, and keep in as close 
touch as possible with the progress of the battle. 

' The original intention was to employ the 1st Tank Battalion with the 30th American 
Division against Bellicourt, the 301st American Tank Battalion with the 27th American Division 
against Bony, and to retain the 4th Tank Battalion in reserve. For various reasons, however, 
it was found necessary to change this distribution considerably, and finally all three battalioD<< 
were used on the 29th, thirty-three Mark V tanks supporting the 30th and thirty-four the 27th 
American Divisions. 



156 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY [Sept. 22nd-28th 

The general principles governing the employment of the tanks were 
the same as those observed on August 8th. The tanks engaged in the 
initial attack on the first objective were to leave their assembly position 
just before " zero," join the infantry on the " starting line," and move 
forward with them. The noise of the tank engines during assembly was 
to be drowned by aeroplanes flying at a low altitude over the battlefield. 
As each objective was secured, the tanks were to rally at previously selected 
localities, while, in the event of the attack not progressing satisfactorily, 
alternative rallying points were chosen further in rear. 

The role of the whippet tanks, attached to the " leap-frogging " 
divisions for the attack on the second objective, was purely one of ex- 
ploitation. They wei-e to penetrate further into the enemy's territory 
than could be expected of the infantry, in order to demoralise him and 
thus influence the later stages of the battle. 

As the roads east of the Hindenburg Line were known to be in a 
fairly good condition, it was decided, in the event of the attack making 
The special mUsion of Satisfactory progress, to employ the 17th Armoured 
the 5th Cavalry Brigade Car Battalion supported by eight whippets of the 3rd 
and the annoured cars -pank Battalion to carry out a special mission. Sup- 
ported by the whippet tanks, which if necessary could also assist 
to tow the cars over the shell area, the armoured cars were to push 
forward and demolish the railway line in the vicinity of Bohain and 
Busigny, thereby cutting the enemy's main communications. The 
whippet tanks were to escort them as far as Serain and Fremont, and then 
" stand by " until assistance was required of them. The 5th Cavalry 
Brigade was placed at the disposal of the Australian Corps, with a view 
to working in conjunction with the armoured cars in the exploitation 
beyond the second objective. 

With the exception of the 5th Cavalry Brigade, the Cavalry Corps 

remained under the orders of General Headquarters. Until the result 

of the attack of the Third Army on September 28th 

Cavaky Corps* ^^^ known. Sir Douglas Haig could not determine 
on what portion of the front the cavalry could best 
be employed. On the evening of September 28th, seeing that there 
was no immediate prospect of the situation on the Third Army front 
being suitable for the employment of cavalry, the Cavalry Corps was 
moved into the Fourth Army area. It was, however, only attached 
for administration, and, for its tactical employment, was to continue 
to act, should the occasion arise, under the orders it had already received 
from General Headquarters. 

These orders were : — 

(a) To advance in the general direction of Le Cateau, securing 
the railway junctions at that place and at Busigny. 

(b) To operate against the flank and rear of the enemy opposite 
our Third and First Armies. 

(c) To cut the enemy's communications about Valenciennes. 

In accordance with these instructions, the 1st and 3rd Cavalry Divisions 
were ordered by Sir Henry Rawlinson to concentrate in the Hervilly- 



Sept 2^h] THE STORMING OF THE HINDENBURG LINE 157 

Hamelet-Boucly and the Bihecourt-Vermand-Caulaincourt areas respec- 
tively, so as to be ready to carry out their mission should the opportunity 
offer. 

During the night of September 27th all the divisions taking part in 
the battle occupied their assembly areas, and the assaulting troops took 
over the line in their respective sectors. The final 
^V'tr^o^'s' °' preparations were carried out without a hitch except on 
the northern half of the American front. Here, the 
failure of the 27th American Division to complete the capture of Quenne- 
mont Farm, Gillemont Farm, and The Knoll on September 27th 
rendered its final preparations for the attack most difficult. It was 
originally intended that the general line Quennemont Farm-Gillemont 
Farm should be the infantry " starting line," and the barrage maps had 
been worked out on this basis and issued to all concerned. To alter the 
barrage at the last moment would ine\'itably lead to confusion, and, even 
had it been possible to do so without jeopardising the success of the 
operation, the knowledge that parties of American troops, including a 
number of American wounded, still occupied portions of trenches in the 
vicinity of these farms and of The Knoll made it impossible to bring the 
barrage further back. After careful consideration. Sir Henry Rawlinson 
decided that the barrage line must remain as originally planned, that is 
to say on the east of the line Quennemont Farm, Gillemont Farm, and 
The Knoll, and that the troops of the 27th American Division should 
form up for the attack as near the barrage line as possible one hour 
before " zero," and, assisted by an additional number of tanks, should 
fight their way forward to the barrage line by " zero." Five-fifty a.m. on 
September 29th was selected as the " zero " hour, and headquarters of 
formations were so informed at noon on the 28th. 

The early morning was fine but foggy, and was almost a replica of the 

morning of August 8th. The svirface of the ground was soft and shppery 

owing to the recent rains, but, as there had been a few 

The assault days of fine weather previously, it was hard underneath. 

The tanks had reached the tank " starting line " during 

the night of the 28th. From here, those co-operating with the infantry 

in the initial assault moved forward just before " zero," in order to pass 

through the infantry on their " starting line " at " zero." 

By 5.50 a.m. the infantry was assembled in its positions waiting 
for the signal, some in trenches, some in shell holes in No IMan's Land, 
others in the shelter of sunken roads. The guns continued relentlessly 
battering the enemy's positions, and above the noise of the guns could 
be heard the drone of the tank engines moving forward in the darkness 
over the slippery ground. Persistent and distinct from the gun fire, and 
not unlike the drone of the tank engines, was the rhji:hmic throb of the 
aeroplanes patrolling overhead. Occasionally these dropped a bomb on 
the enemy's trenches. 

At 5.55 a.m. the noise was appalling. The barrage had fallen 200 
yards in front of the infantry and was moving steadily forward, in^^sible, 
except for the flashes, in the thick morning mist which hung over the battle- 
field. The tanks, followed by the leading waves of infantry, rumbled 



158 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY [Sept. 29th 

forward and became enveloped in the fog, which was by that time 
greatly intensified by the smoke of the shells. Shrapnel bursts filled 
the air, and machine-gun bullets whistled everywhere overhead. The 
attack was launched, and the fate of the battle now rested in the hands 
of the subordinate commanders. 

On the southern flank of the IX Corps the 1st Division, employing 
the 3rd and 1st Brigades, began the difficult task of clearing the enemy 
from the ground east and north-east of Pontruet with 
^®^ ''"JP^ =^^? ?*'*"'° strong fighting patrols. The mission of the division 
was to secure the right flank of the 46th Division in its 
advance to the canal, to gain the high ground north of Thorigny, and join 
hands with the 32nd Division at the tunnel defences south of Le Tronquoy. 
The 1st Loyal North Lancashire and the 1st Black Watch of the 1st 
Brigade, the former battalion operating in close liaison with the right of 
the 46th Division, cleared the trenches west of the canal astride of the 
Bellenglise-Ste. Helene road. The 3rd Brigade on the right sent forward 
the 1st Gloucestershire towards the high ground around Sycamore Wood. 
When this battalion had progressed about half a mile it encountered strong 
resistance from the enemy holding the trenches west of the wood, and, in 
accordance with the orders it had received, did not attempt to make a 
frontal attack, the wood being subsequently secured after dark from the 
north. Meanwhile, the 1st Black Watch", with the 1st Loyal North 
Lancashire' in support, had swung round its left west of the canal 
and was clearing the trenches in the area as far east as the main St. 
Quentin-Cambrai road. The clearing of this maze of trenches was no 
easy task, and the fighting was severe, but the 1st Black Watch, and the 
1st South Wales Borderers of the 3rd Brigade, were not to be denied, and 
early in the afternoon the high ground around Road Wood and the trenches 
between it and the canal were captured. 

During the remainder of the afternoon, little progress was made by 
the troops of the 1st Division beyond the St, Quentin-Cambrai road, on 
account of heavy enfilade fire from the south, but connection was estab- 
lished with the 6th Division. This division, which had not been able to 
advance north of Gricourt, was relieved by the French during the night 
of September 29th, and went into corps reserve near Vermand. 

The 46th Division advanced to the storming of the canal fine and the 
capture of Bellenglise, with the 137th Brigade leading on a three-battalion 
The capture of the front. The 139th and 138th Brigades, each on a one- 
first objective by the battalion front, were in rear of the 137th, on the right and 
46th Division j^f^ respectively, their task being to " leap-frog " the 
leading brigade and secure the first army objective (green line). One com- 
pany from the leading battalion of each of the supporting brigades was 
detailed to " mop up " the area west of the canal. These battalions 
were also instructed to keep in close touch with the situation, in order to 
ensure that the 137th Brigade, having once crossed the canal, should run 
no risk of being outnumbered in the trench systems immediately beyond. 
Under cover of the dense mist the 137th Brigade stormed the 
trenches west of the canal, killed most of the garrison, and reached 
the canal well up to time. The l/6th South Staffordshire on the right 




w 



z 

o 






No. 67. 



7o face pagf 158. 



Wire 




I iiiMiii 



THE ST. QUENTIN CANAL; ONE OF THE PLACES WHERE THE 46TH DIVISION CROSSED. 



No. 68. 




ANOTHER PART OF THE ST. QUENTIN CANAL, WHERE A CROSSING WAS 
EFFECTED BY THE 46TH DIVISION. 




►J 



y. 



z 



o 

I 






W 

m 



Sept.2^h] the storming of the HINDENBURG line 159 

crossed the canal north-west of Bellenghse, finding Httle water in it. 
At first the Germans put up some resistance, but, after a number of our 
men had crossed, tliey surrendered freely. This battalion then advanced 
through Bellenglise and secured the tunnel entrances in the village, where 
some hundreds of prisoners were captured before they had time to offer 
any resistance. As a means of giving shelter, and thus avoiding casualties 
during a bombardment, these tunnels had served their purpose admirably, 
but, as our attacking troops reached them before they were cleared, they 
became a veritable trap for those who had taken refuge in them. 

The l/5th South Staffordshire and the l/6th North Staffordshire, in the 
centre and on the left respectively, found a considerable depth of water 
in the canal, and the banks where they crossed were high. Swimming 
over first with ropes, the officers were soon joined by the leading waves 
of their men, who made use of life-belts, rafts, light portable boats, and in 
some cases of bridges which had only been partially destroyed by the enemy. 
At Riqueval Farm the bridge was found intact, although prepared for 
demolition. Some German pioneers were in the act of lighting the fuses 
to the demolition charges, but were prevented from doing so by the timely 
arrival of a company of the l/6th North Staffordshire and an engineer 
detachment, who rushed the bridge. The bridge was saved, and some 
pontoon bridges were rapidly constructed ; these subsequently proved in- 
valuable for pushing the supporting troops across the canal. Rapidly over- 
coming the resistance of the enemy holding the trenches east of the canal, the 
troops of the 137th Brigade penetrated a further 700 yards and captured 
a battery of four guns. At 8.20 a.m. the barrage was halted, and 
a protective barrage was formed, which remained stationary for the next 
three hours.^ The leading battalions of the 139th and 138th Brigades 
were already across the canal and close in rear of the 137th Brigade, and, 
during this pause, the remainder of these brigades crossed. 

When the barrage lifted at 11.20 a.m., the 139th and 138th Brigades 
" leap-frogged " the 137th Brigade and advanced against the first objective. 
The two companies of the 9th Tank Battalion allotted to these two 
brigades had successfully crossed the tunnel south of Bellicourt, and 
moved forward, one company with each brigade. By this time the dense 
mist, which had greatly assisted the attack of the 46th Division in its 
early stages, had thinned considerably, and the visibility was much 
improved. This enabled the enemy to bring effective fire to bear on our 
troops, and made the tanks an easy mark for hostile field guns. The 
leading battalion of the 139th Brigade was immediately subjected to 
intense enfilade fire from machine-guns, as well as from a battery of field 
guns situated on the high ground west of the canal. This battery also 
quickly put out of action the company of tanks which was co-operating 
with the 139th Brigade. 

Although deprived of the assistance of these tanks, the brigade 
pushed steadily forward, keeping close to the barrage. On reaching the 
high ground west of Lehaucourt the whole attack was, however, held up by 
artillery fire from the front, and by machine-gun and rifle fire from the 
right flank. Realising that everything depended on the advancing 

^ See Map 18. " Barrage Map." This three hour protective barrage is " Protective B " on 
the map. 



160 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY [Sept. 29th 

troops keeping close to the barrage, Lieut. -Col. William Vann,^ commanding 
the l/6th Sherwood Foresters, rushed up to the firing line and, with the 
greatest gallantry, led the whole line forward. The fate of the tanks had 
meanwhile been avenged by the enterprise of a party of men of the 139th 
Brigade, who, having crossed to the western bank of the canal, killed the 
detachments of the field guns which had destroyed the tanks. In this 
part of the field several attempts were made by the enemy to stem the tide 
of our advancing infantry, but in vain.^ 

On the left the 138th Brigade moved forward steadily, and by 
12.30 p.m. was approaching Magny-la-Fosse. Until the mist lifted, 
communication with the 30th American Division on the left was difficult. 
When the visibility improved, it was seen that there were still Germans in 
Nauroy, and the left flank of the 138th Brigade was, therefore, refused. 
Similarly, the right flank of the 139th Brigade was in advance of the 1st 
Division west of the canal. In consequence there was a slight delay, 
when for a short time the infantry lost touch with the barrage ; it 
was soon regained, and, assisted by the tanks which co-operated with 
the 138th Brigade, the advance of the 46th Division continued. Our 
troops had now reached the enemy's artillery positions, where the German 
gunners fought gallantly and continued firing their guns up to the last. 
Finally Lehaucourt and Magny-la-Fosse were captured, and by 3 p.m. 
the whole of the first objective had been secured on the front of the 46th 
Division. 

Meanwhile, the 32nd Division had moved forward from its assembly 
area round Le Verguier, with the 14th and 97th Brigades leading on the 
The advance of the right and left respectively, and with the 96th Brigade in 
32na Division to the reserve. ^ The leading brigades, with two batteries of 
second objective f^^j^j artillery, began to cross the canal at 3 p.m., the 
96th Brigade remaining west of the canal. At about 4 p.m. the attacking 
brigades " leap-frogged " the 46th Division on the first objective, but the 
tanks allotted to the 32nd Division to co-operate in the attack were unfor- 
tunately unable to reach their rendezvous in time to take part in the 
advance. They were, therefore, concentrated near Magny-la-Fosse ready 
for the next day's operations. 

Although the advance of the 32nd Division met with determined 
resistance, it made good progress. At 6 p.m. the 15th Highland Light 
Infantry on the right of the 14th Brigade advanced against Le Tronquoy, 
covered by a light artillery barrage. Fighting ensued, but the village 
and the high ground and woods round it w^ere captured. On the left of 
the 14th Brigade the 1st Dorsetshire was not so fortvmate, the shelling 
and machine-gun fire on its front being very severe. Nevertheless, the 
battalion reached the second objective on its right, while its left was 
refused along Ecume Trench. 

" This gallant officer, before the war, was Chaplain to Wellingborough School. See Appendix 
E, No. 44. 

2 One German officer, who was mounted, made three gallant attempts to rally the men of 
the 79th Reserve Division, but, after he and his horse had been killed, the enemy retreated in 
disorder. 

3 In order to ensure the closest co-operation between the 32nd and 46th Divisions the two 
Divisional Commanders established a joint headquarters on September 29th in a dug-out wtU 
forward. 



Sept 29th] THE STORMING OF THE HINDENBURG LINE 161 

For the same reason the right of the 97th Brigade was held up in the 
valley south-west of Levergies, and its left, exposed to heavy 
fire from the enemy's machine-guns posted south of Joncourt and on the 
southern slopes of Mill Ridge, was temporarily checked north-east of 
Magny-la-Fosse. At this time the left of the 32nd Division was 
temporarily out of touch with the Australians, of whom some troops of the 
32nd Battalion reached the south-western outskirts of Joncourt about 6 p.m., 
but, finding themselves isolated, withdrew to near Etricourt. Machine- 
guns of the 82nd Machine Gun Battalion were, meanwhile, moved up the 
sunken roads north-east of Magny-la-Fosse, and swept the slopes of Mill 
Ridge with harassing fire, to such good effect that the fire of the enemy's 
machine-guns was neutralised, and the 97th Brigade was again able to 
move forward. The Lehaucourt Ridge was secured to within about 
1,000 yards of Joncourt, and a flank was thrown back facing north, 
connection being established with the Australians near Etricourt. 

By nightfall all three brigades of the 32nd Division were east of the 
canal ; the 96th Brigade, which had moved forward during the afternoon, 
being in close support of the 14th and 97th Brigades. The artillery was 
also well up ; one brigade of field artillery and one brigade of horse 
artillery had already crossed the canal and were in action 1,500 yards east 
of it, covering the 32nd Division, while two brigades of field artillery 
and a brigade of heavy artillery were crossing the canal on their way 
to reinforce them. The bridgehead at Bellenglise was therefore firmly 
established. 

The success attending the operations of the IX Corps was primarily 

due to the dash and determination with which the troops of the 46th 

The result of the Division pressed forward to their objective, and to the 

day's fighting by the excellent leadership and initiative of the subordinate 

IX Corps commanders, ^\^len their flanks were exposed, they 

exerted pressure where the enemy was weak and gave way, and only 

strengthened their flanks just sufficiently to safeguard them. 

Not so dramatic, perhaps, but almost equally difficult and important 
in its results, was the work of the 1st Division on this day, as the safety 
of the right flank of the army depended on the success of its advance, 
which the enemy opposed throughout the day with the greatest 
determination. 

The sector which had been considered in some ways the most formid- 
able part of the Hindenburg Line on the army front had been captured at 
small cost on the whole of the IX Corps front. The enemy's defences had 
been penetrated by a deep wedge to a maximum depth of some 6,000 yards. 
This would form an excellent salient from which pressure could be 
applied to the north and south with every prospect of success, and the 
many months of work which the enemy had spent in constructing these 
defences had been rendered useless in a few hours. Over 5,100 prisoners,^ 
90 guns, and many hvmdreds of machine-guns and trench mortars 

' Prisoners were captured from the 2nd, 11th, 75th Reserve, and 79th Reserve Divisions. 
Of these the 2nd Division, which was occupying the Bellenglise salient, suffered veiy heavily. 
The men on the whole had little stomach for" the fight, their moral having been much lowered 
by our bombardment and by the consequent lack of food during the two days previous to our attack. 

Y 



162 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY [Sept 2&th 

were captured, the 46th Division alone accounting for 4,200 prisoners 
and 70 guns.^ It was a great and well-deserved victory for Sir Walter 
Braithwaite and the IX Corps. 

The 30th American Division on the right experienced little trouble 

in forming up on the " starting line." The 60th Brigade, disposed on a 

A trai' front of two regiments, formed up for the assault, with 

American Corps ; "the the 59th Brigade in reserve.^ The 117th regiment of 

attack of the Ameri- the 59th Brigade, which was to exploit to the south 

can Divisions when the first objective had been reached, was in close 

support of the right flank of the 60th Brigade. On the left the 27th 

American Division, which was to advance an hour before " zero," 

experienced considerable difficulty in forming up on account of the 

uncertainty of the situation. It was intended that the 54th Brigade, 

which was to carry out the assault, should form up about 1,000 yards 

in rear of the barrage line, with the 53rd Brigade in reserve. The i05th 

Regiment of the 53rd Brigade, which was to exploit to the north when 

the first objective had been reached, was to be in close support of the 

left flank of the 54th Brigade. Owing to the difficult situation these 

dispositions were not carried out entireh' as arranged. 

The attack started well on the front of the 30th American Division. 
The infantry, keeping close up to the barrage, moved through the masses 
of wire and trenches towards the Bellicourt tunnel, 
■"»« ^DWisbS^"''*" ^^^ *^^ intricate nature of the trench systems, the 
confusion of wire, and the number of dug-outs were 
responsible for a certain loss of cohesion, with the result that, by the time 
the tunnel was reached, the barrage had been lost, and a good deal of the 
impetus had gone out of the attack. Nevertheless, Bellicourt and the 
southern entrance of the tunnel at Riqueval were captured. Beyond this 
line it is difficult to say how far the Americans penetrated. As they 
passed over and beyond the tunnel, it is certain that numerous groups of 
Germans, belonging to the 121st and 185th Divisions, emerging from their 
dug-outs and from the tunnel itself, offered a strong resistance to the 
advance of the 5th Australian Division following in rear of the Americans. 
In the excitement of their first big battle, fought as it was in a dense mist 
and thick smoke, combined with the difficulty of locating all the entrances 
to the tunnel and dug-outs, the " moppers up " of the 30th American 
Division appear to have gone on, instead of dealing with those of the 
enemy who had taken shelter during the initial advance.^ Several parties 
of Americans penetrated beyond Nauroy and reached the first objective. 
WTien the smoke and mist had cleared, and these parties could see where 
they were, most of them joined the 5th Australian Division as it fought its 
way forward. 

' The casualties of the 46th Division on September 29th were only 800. 

- An American division is composed of two brigades ; each brigade consists of two 
regiments of three battalions each. 

3 This was no new story. It had happened to the British and French many times in 1916 
and 1917. Amongst several instances may be recalled the similar experiences of the Ulster 
Division at Thiepval on July 1st, 1916, and of the 30th and 55th Divisions at Guillemont in August 
of the same year, when the leading waves of tlie assault, after their first brilliant initial success, 
were cut off by the enemy coming out of his shelters in their rear. 






c = 

Sic 



i 




i) ft • . ^' J 



2 

■J 



^ 



■sea 








->^ 


' - 






ggi 






• 

*^ 


r.r 


' w 



-J .5 



z = 

3 r ■ 



X ^ o 



C — o 



0-5- 
^ is 



Sept 29th] THE STORMING OF THE HINDENBURG LINE 163 

From the outset the 27th American Division was beset with 
difficulties, which might well have daunted less gallant troops. Assisted 
by the tanks, which had been specially detailed to 
The 27th American "mop up" the German defences round Quennemont 
Farm, Gillemont Farm, and The Knoll, the troops of 
this division advanced an hour before " zero " against these centres of 
resistance, while the barrage, for reasons given earlier in this chapter,^ 
came down at " zero " east of these localities and 1,000 yards from the 
infantry " starting line." From the start the advance was strongly 
opposed by the enemy with the fire of numerous machine-guns, and of a 
number of field guns specially sited for dealing with tanks. Raking the 
open ground, over which the assaulting troops were forced to advance, 
the machine-guns wrought terrible havoc among the waves of advancing 
Americans. Of the thirty-nine tanks assisting the advance, twelve 
received direct hits, while seven more were " ditched." In one instance, 
seven tanks approached to within a hundred yards of Gillemont Farm, 
but were put out of action by the enemy as soon as they became visible 
through the mist, and only one tank succeeded in crossing the Bellicourt 
tunnel on this divisional front. 

The gallant Americans gained a footing on The Knoll, but were subse- 
quently driven off part of it by a strong counter-attack delivered by the 
54th German division.- Some of the troops of the 27th American Division 
broke through the tunnel defences of the Hindenburg Line under cover 
of the mist and smoke of the barrage,^ the main force of the attack was, 
however, expended against Quennemont Farm and Gillemont Farm, which 
were still held by the enemy when the 3rd Australian Division arrived on 
the scene.* 

Moving from its assembly area round Hesbecourt and Ste. Emilie at 

7 a.m., the 5th Australian Division advanced across country in artillery 

formation, with a view to reaching the original " starting 

sth'^AUrSLtSon ^^^^ " of the 30th American Division by 9 a.m., and to 

" leap-froggmg " the Americans on the first objective 

two hours later. The division was disposed with the 8th Brigade on the 

right on a two-battalion front, and the 15th Brigade on the left on a 

similar frontage. The 32nd and 29th Battalions led the 8th Brigade 

advance, with the 31st in support. The 57th and 59th Battalions 

led the 15th Brigade advance, with the 58th in support. The 

14th Brigade was held in divisional reserve. 

In spite of the thick mist the tanks, followed by the Australian infantry, 
crossed the American " starting line " at 9 a.m. without incident, although 
there was considerable shelling. On approaching Bellicourt, the tanks 
encountered machine-gun fire from the outskirts of the village. Two tanks 

■ See page 157. 

2 Some troops of the 18th Division moved forward on the left of the 27th American Division 
to protect its left (lank and reached The lOioU with the American troops. 

3 During the afternoon returning wounded reported that they had reached the Hindenburg 
Line, while aircraft reported the presence of ground flares near Gouy. 

* The two American divisions were opposed in this attack by parts of four German Divisions, 
namely, the 54th, 75th Reserve, 121st, and 185th, all of which were in line between Riqueval 
Farm and the northern entrance to the Bellicourt tunnel Of these, the 54th Division was fresh 
and put up a very good fight in the Bony area. 



164 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY [Sept. 29th 

moved forward, and were followed immediately by the 32nd and 29th 
Battalions, which entered the village at 9.40 a.m. and proceeded to clear 
it of such Germans as still remained. Major Anderson Wark,'^ who 
commanded the 32nd Battalion, now found the situation somewhat 
critical ; he at once went forward and obtained sufficient information regard- 
mg the situation in front to enable him to lead his command forward. 
Dm-ing his reconnaissance he fovmd 200 Americans, whose advance had 
been checked with heavy loss, and who were in consequence considerably 
disorganised. These Major Wark attached to his leading company, and 
thus reinforced the 32nd and 29th Battalions, having " mopped up " 
Bellicourt, pushed forward towards Nauroy. The mist now lifted, 
exposing the infantry and tanks to the view of the enemy holding the 
high ground round Nauroy, and the anti-tank guns concealed in the village 
quickly put the tanks out of action. In spite of this, the 32nd Battalion 
on the right, moving up the western slopes of the high ground, entered 
the southern portion of Nauroy; it " mopped up " this ^-illage and cap- 
tiu-ed 50 prisoners. The 29th Battalion on the left reached the Le 
Catelet-Nauroy Line, but was unable to advance farther on account of 
the intensity of the fire which enfiladed their position from the direction 
of Cabaret Wood Farm. Shortly after noon the enemy's resistance 
strengthened," and it became evident that there were no American troops 
in front of the 8th Brigade except small isolated parties. Moreover, by 
this time all except two of the twelve tanks supporting the brigade 
had been put out of action by direct hits or had been " ditched." 
The 8th Brigade Commander, therefore, decided to wait until 8 p.m., 
and then launch an organised attack. 

On the left of the 5th Australian Division the 15th Brigade 
advanced steadily towards the American " starting line " without incident. 
Beyond this line progress was hampered by fire from machine-guns which 
had come into action as soon as the Americans had passed. Nevertheless, 
at 11 a.m., when the mist began to clear, the 58th Battalion, which had 
moved up in support between the 57th and 59th, had reached 
the tunnel north of Bellicourt. Here isolated groups of Americans were 
encovmtered, but they could give no information regarding the situation 
in front. A line was, therefore, formed on the west bank of the tunnel 
embankment, with the 57th Battalion on the right and the 58th 
in the centre. The 59th on the left had lost touch with the 
57th owing to the mist, had SAVung too much to the left, and 
thus became mixed up with the 44.th Battalion of the 3rd Australian 
Division. The 59th Battalion found great difficulty in reaching the 
Hindenburg Line owing to the enfilade and reverse fire which it 
experienced from machine-gvms on the high ground round Quennemont 
Farm, where the enemy was still holding out ; there were also isolated 
posts of the enemy still occupying portions of the Hindenburg Line. Some 
hard fighting ensued, but finally the support trenches about 500 yards 
west of the tunnel were cleared and held by a mixed garrison, comprising 
men of the 59th BattaHon, one platoon of the 44th Battalion, and parties 

> For details regarding Major Wark's splendid leadership, see Appendix E, No. 45. 

* The line here had been reinforced by at least one battalion of the 21st Division from support 




z 

D 
O 

o 



z 

D 






^ 

* 



■11 

5 ''^ 




^ti 



^•^ ■ ■'^■■^ftff ^'hi 



Sept 2^u] THE STORMING OF THE HINDENBURG LINE 165 

of the 108th Regiment of the 27th American Division. Numerous bombing 
counter-attacks down the trenches from the north were repulsed, and 
touch with the 58th BattaHon was regained on the tunnel. Reconnais- 
sance beyond the tunnel revealed the fact that we had no definite line in 
front, except some posts which had been established by the troops of the 
30th American Division. As the resistance in front of the 5th Australian 
Division had strengthened considerably during the past two hours, it was 
decided to continue the attack at 3 p.m. with the 15th Brigade as well as 
with the 8th Brigade, under cover of a creeping barrage. 

At 3 p.m. the 8th Brigade, assisted by four tanks, all of which 
were put out of action almost at once, moved forward. The 32nd Bat- 
talion established touch with the troops of the IX Corps on the 
northern slopes of Knobkerry Ridge, north of Magny-la-Fosse, about 
5.30 p.m. It then continued its advance and succeeded in reaching 
Joncourt, but, finding itself isolated, ^vithdrew later to Etricourt, 
where it was in touch with the 32nd Division. The 29th Battalion on 
the left quickly gained the first objective on its front, although opposition 
was encountered from machine-gun posts on the high ground north-east 
of Nauroy. This battalion was compelled later to withdraw to the Le 
Catelet-Nauroy Line owing to its left flank being enfiladed from the north. 
The 31st Battalion, meanwhile, moved forward through Nauroy from 
support and advanced between the 32nd and 29th Battalions. It was, 
however, checked east of the village by heavy fire from the Sugar Factory 
and was unable to advance fai-ther. 

On the 15th Brigade front the 57th and 58th Battalions, reinforced 
by groups of the 30th American Division, also resumed the advance at 
3 p.m. Four Mark V and eight whippet tanks took part in the operation, 
but unfortunately, within fifteen minutes of starting, all of the Mark V 
tanks and five of the whippets were put out of action. The lightness of 
our artillery barrage added to the difficulties of the infantry, as it permitted 
the enemy to man his machine-guns in the Le Catelet-Nauroy Line. 
Nevertheless, the 57th Battalion on the right managed to capture the 
Le Catelet-Nauroy Line on its front, and the 58th Battalion gained a 
footing in it further north. This left the enemy still in possession of the 
trenches in front of Cabaret Wood Farm, with the result that numerous 
bombing encounters took place. Although a portion of these trenches was 
cleared by the 57th Battalion, the 58th Battalion on the left was unable 
to make any headway on account of the enfilade fire from the north, and at 
4.30 p.m. it withdrew, and formed a defensive flank from the Le Catelet- 
Nam'oy Line west of Cabaret ^Vood Farm to the tunnel. This line was 
prolonged northwards along the tunnel for 200 yards, and then swung 
back to the sunken road 500 yards west of the tunnel, where a junction 
was effected with the 44th Battalion of the 3rd Australian Division. 
Later in the afternoon the 59th Battalion moved forward from the 
trench jiist west of the road and relieved the troops of the 44th 
Battalion. 

Thus, at nightfall the 5th Australian Division, after a very severe 
day's fighting, was established on the high ground round Etricourt in 
touch with the IX Corps ; it held Navu-oy and the Le Catelet-Nauroy 



166 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY [Sept 2&rH 

Line as far north as Cabaret Wood Farm ; thence it threw back a defensive 
flank to the tunnel to join with the 3rd AustraUan Division, 

The 3rd Austrahan Division moved off from its assembly area round 
Ronssoy at 7 a.m. and, preceded by the tanks, advanced in artillery forma- 
tion towards the line Quennemont Farm-Gillcmont 
The action of the Farm, which it expected to cross by 9 a.m. The 

3rd Australian Division _,., ' j .„., yi • j u- u i j- u 

11th and 10th Brigades which were leading, each 
advanced on a two-battalion front, followed by the 9th Brigade. As 
soon as the leading battahons had crossed the original " starting line " of 
the 27th American Division, machine-gun fire was encountered from 
Quennemont Farm, Quennet Copse, and Gillemont Farm. At the same 
time the enemy's artillery fire was very intense, putting a number of the 
tanks out of action. 

Although reports from wounded men, and later from the air, were 
received that the 27th American Division was through the Hindenburg 
Line and had secured its objective, it was obvious that the enemy was 
still holding strong localities behind the advanced troops of the American 
division, and that there would be considerable fighting before the first 
objective could be reached. Definite information regarding the situation 
of the troops of the 27th American Division could not be obtained, and 
observation w^as impossible owing to the thick mist which obscured every- 
thing. 

It was essential, however, that the line Quennemont Farm-Gillemont 
Farm should be secured, and that the 3rd Australian Division should 
push forward and assist the Americans to reorganise and complete their 
task. It Avas known that the 30th American Division had captured 
Bellicourt, and the 9th Brigade was, therefore, ordered to hold itself in 
readiness to move at short notice southwards, with a view to assisting the 
easterly advance of the 11th and 10th Brigades by operating against the 
flank of the enemy's defences from the direction of Bellicourt. This 
move, however, did not take place on the 29th. 

Throughout the remainder of the morning heavy fighting took place, 
the 54th and 121st German Divisions resisting our advance between 
Bellicourt and Le Catelet with determination. Two tanks secured the 
small spur immediately south of Quennemont Farm, but were put out of 
action shortly afterwards. Other tanks advanced against Quennet 
Copse, from which a number of machine-guns were causing our infantry 
considerable casualties. The tanks arrived at the copse to find that the 
enemy had surrendered, and that our infantry was in possession. Further 
north the infantry, working in close conjunction with the tanks, cleared 
South Gillemont Trench and gained the western edge of the farm. The 
mist was now lifting, visibility was decidedly better, and the shelling from 
the north had increased and was at this time very severe. The tanks, as 
they moved over the crests of the ridges, formed an excellent target for the 
anti-tank guns, and several were put out of action ; their crews, however, 
removed the machine-guns from them and joined the infantry. 

By noon no material progress had been made. The 44th Battalion 
on the right of the 11th Brigade was in touch with the 15th Brigade of the 
5th Australian Division in the main trenches of the Hindenburg Line, 




r. 

< 



^ 



Sept 29thJ THE STORMING OF THE HINDENBURG LINE 167 

but the remainder of the brigade was held up west of Quennemont Farm 
and in the trenches east of Quennet Copse. The 10th Austrahan Brigade 
continued the hne to the north along South Gillemont Trench, then west 
of Gillemont Farm and across the Macquincourt valley to The Knoll, 
which was held by our troops. The enemy was beginning to work up the 
Macquincourt valley in small parties, and made repeated counter-attacks 
against The Knoll and the left flank of the 10th Brigade. 

Maj.-Gen. Hobbs ordered the advance to be resumed at 3 p.m. 
by the 11th and 10th Brigades and tanks. The 9th Brigade was brought 
forward in close support of the 10th Brigade, with the object of protecting 
the left flank of the division from any attacks from the north. It was 
impossible to employ covering artillery fire for this attack, on account of the 
uncei-tainty of the situation with regard to the Americans. Consequently, 
when the infantry and tanks began to advance at 3 p.m., they were met by 
such a storm of shell and machine-gun fire that it was obvious that to 
continue the attack in daylight under these conditions was impossible. 
An advance of a few hundred yards, however, was made, and Gillemont 
Farm was captured. At about this time the enemy, as the result of continued 
counter-attacks, succeeded in gaining a footing on the eastern slopes of 
The Knoll, thus threatening the left flank of the 3rd Australian Division 
and the right of the III Corps. One battaUon of the 9th Brigade, therefore, 
took up a position south-east of Tombois Farm at the head of the 
Macquincourt valley to prevent any further penetration. 

While the fighting was in progress during the morning, the armoured 
cars, with their usual boldness, moved dowTi the Hargicourt-Bony road 

to carry out their special mission. On approaching 
The armoured cars Bony they found that the enemy was still in occupation. 

Four armoured cars and four whippet tanks were put 
out of action by anti-tank gun fire. The remainder of the whippets and 
armoured cars were, therefore, withdrawn to a position of safety until 
the situation should allow them to carry out their allotted task. 

The action of the III Corps was entirely dependent on the progress 
of the battle on its right. The 12th Division was disposed along the front 

of the III Corps, the 35th Brigade on the right and the 
opewtior' 37th Brigade on the left, with the object of securing 

the left flank of the army. It was not to undertake a 
general attack, but, whenever the situation permitted, was to endeavour 
to gain ground along the whole of its front and secure Lark Spur. The 
main operation on the III Corps front was undertaken by the 18th Division. 
This division formed up for the attack with the 54th Brigade in rear of 
the left of the 27th American Division near Sart Farm. ^Vhen the latter 
division had advanced beyond The Knoll, the 54th Brigade was to swing to 
Ihe north and secvire Macquincourt Trench. The 55th Brigade was to 
assemble north of Ronssoy, and follow ihe 3rd Australian Division 
when it moved forward at 7 a.m. It was then to advance do\vn the 
Macquincourt valley and establish a bridgehead across the canal at 
Vendhuile. This would in turn allow the 38th Division of the V Corps to 
cross the canal and advance northwards against the flank of the enemy's 
defences opposite the remainder of the V Corps. One battalion of the 37th 



168 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY [Sept. 29th 

Brigade of the 12th Division was to form up west of The Knoll on the 
left of the 54th Brigade, with the task of securing the high ground 1,000 
yards west of Vendhuile. 

The III Corps attack was launched at " zero " and at first made good 
progress. By 1 p.m. the 54th Brigade had established itself in Macquin- 
court Trench overlooking Vendhuile ; the 12th Division had advanced its 
line 1000 yards ; on the left, however, the 37th Brigade was unable to push 
forward beyond Dados Loop. Up to this time the reports as to the 
progress of the 27th American Division had been most favourable, but 
information now began to be received which modified the earlier reports. 
Moreover, the right flank of the 54th Brigade was in some danger from the 
enemy's pressure up the Macquincourt valley. 

As the Australians were held up in front of Gillemont Farm, the 
proposed advance of the 55th Brigade down the Macquincourt valley was 
impossible. Therefore, at 1.25 p.m. one battalion of this brigade was 
instructed to operate southwards from The Knoll against the trenches 
north of Gillemont Farm ; the situation at this time, however, round The 
Knoll and south of it, combined with the intensity of the enemy's artillery 
and machine-gun fire, made such an operation impracticable. Subse- 
quently, the 55th Brigade strengthened the position round The Knoll by 
holding the trenches on its southern slopes, and joined up with the Aus- 
tralians on the right and the 54th Brigade on the left, the latter having 
thrown back a defensive flank from Macquincourt Trench. The 12th 
Division continued the line on the left of the 54th Brigade, at a distance 
of about 700 yards from the canal, connecting with the 33rd Division 
north of Dados Loop. 

Such was still the situation at dusk. On the left no material progress 

had been made, and, in consequence, the right divisions of the Third Army 

were unable to advance. Moreover, the German artillery 

The situation oJ^ the ^^ ^^le high ground about La Terriere was very well 

orps a u placed to harass the advance of our left flank, while, so 

long as the advance of the Third Army was held up, its own position was 

perfectly secure. As the result of the day's fighting, the III Corps had 

captured over 250 prisoners and was in possession of Macquincourt Trench 

and The Knoll, both of which were of considerable importance, as they 

protected the left flank of the Australian- American Corps. 

Our total captures on September 29th amounted to over 5,300 
prisoners, of whom 128 were officers. These came from 48 battalions of 
twenty regiments of nine different divisions. In 
"""^ "bSe°* *^^ ^^^ ^-^ Corps, whose attack had been a complete 
and far-reaching success, the casualties had been very 
light compared with the results achieved. It had every reason to be 
proud of the day's work, which was second to none amongst those recorded 
in this story. The American divisions, whose task under any conditions 
was far from easy, had been compeUed by the events of the previous forty- 
eight hours to face a very difficult proposition. Only the most fearless 
and self-sacrificing troops would have faced the fire to which they were 
subjected from the moment the attack started, and it is to their undying 
credit that they achieved what they did and broke the backbone of the 



Sept. 29th] THE STORMING OF THE HINDENBURG LINE 169 

tunnel defences. The Australian troops engaged surmounted the diffi- 
culties which met them from the start with then- usual determination and 
individual initiative in the face of unexpected situations, while the 18th 
and 12th Divisions showed that the continuous fighting in which they had 
taken part since August 8th had in no way damped their ardour, 
September 29th was perhaps the most trying day the tanks had 
experienced during all the battles in which they took part with the 
Fourth Army during the hundred days, but they earned the sincere grati- 
tude of the infantry by their never-failing gallantry and self-sacrifice 
whenever they were called upon for assistance. 

Such high hopes had been held of a sweeping and decisive victory on 
September 29th, that the check received at the northern half of the tunnel 
defences was for the moment the cause of some disappointment. It was 
soon realised, however, that, although we had not achieved all that was 
desired and expected, we had, nevertheless, inflicted a crushing defeat on 
the enemy. We had forced a wedge into his defences to a depth of some 
5,000 to 6,000 yards on a front of about 10,000 yards, which wovild render 
his position a very difficult one, and, if a little more pressure was exerted, 
the whole of the tunnel defences would shortly be in our possession. 

After discussing the situation on the northern half of the front with 

Sir John Monash and General Read, Sir Henry Rawlinson decided to 

withdraw the II American Corps for a short rest, and to 

"'^mbe"30th^*^' ^^^^y °" *^^^ operations with the IX, Australian, and 

Xlli Corps on fronts of approximately equal widths, as 

soon as the situation on the timnel had been cleared up by the Australian 

Corps, and the gap widened. 

On the evening of September 29th, therefore, orders were issued to 
the following effect : — The IX Corps was to secure the whole of the Le 
Tronquoy tunnel defences, with a view to allowing the XV French Corps 
to pass through as early as possible, to capture the high groimd on the 
line Le Tronquoy-Sequehart-Preselles, and to push forward towards 
Joncourt, thereby assisting the advance of the Australian Corps. The 
Australian Corps was to endeavour to get into touch with the American 
troops who were believed to be in front of our main line, to capture 
Estrees and Folemprise Farm, and to secure the remainder of the 
Hindenburg Line as far as the northern entrance of the tunnel, and 
the Nauroy-Le Catelet Line as far as the southern outskirts of Gouy. 
The II American Corps was to withdraw its troops to a position in rear, 
as soon as relieved by the Australians. The III Corps was to occupy 
Vendhuile, and to give as much artillery assistance as possible to 
the Australian Corps. The XIII and Cavalry Corps were to remain in 
reserve in the positions they then occupied until the situation developed. 

It was hoped to secure all these objectives within a short time, and to 
advance our line to within striking distance of the Masnieres-Beatirevoir- 
Fonsomme Line, which could then be broken by another organised attack 
on a wide front. 



CHAPTER IX 

THE COMPLETION OF THE CAPTURE OF THE HINDENBURG DEFENCES, 
SEPTEMBER 30TH — OCTOBER 2ND, AND THE CAPTURE OF THE BEAUREVOIR 

LINE, OCTOBER 3RD — 5TH 

Maps 2, 10, 11, and 12 

September 30th ; the advance of the IX Corps — The plan of operations of the Australian Corps — 
The attack of the 5th Australian Division — The attack of the 3rd Australian Division — The 
action of the III Corps — October 1st ; the IX Corps operations ; the 32nd Division attack — 
The attack of the Australian Corps continued — The III Corps relieved by the XIII Corps 
— October 2nd ; the action of the IX Corps — The relief of the 3rd and 5th Australian Divisions 
— The situation on the evening of October 2nd — The orders for the attack on October 3rd — 
The objectives and frontages of the attack — October 3rd ; the IX Corps attack ; the action 
of the 1st Division — The attacks of the 32nd and 46th Divisions — The action of the XV 
French Corps — The Australian Corps ; the attack of the 2nd Australian Division — The XIII 
Corps ; the attack of the 50th Division — The result of the day's fighting — The orders for the 
continuance of the attack on October 4th — October 4th ; the action of the IX Corps — The 
action of the 2nd Australian Division — The XIII Corps attack — The progress of the First 
French Army — The plan of attack for the capture of Montbrehain and Beaurevoir — 
October 5th ; the IX Corps at Mannequin Hill — The capture of Montbrehain by the 2nd 
Australian Division — The XIII Corps ; the capture of Beaurevoir by the 25th Division — 
The advance of the 50th Division north of Gouy, and of the 38th Division of the V Corps 
— The result of the day's fighting — The relief of the Australian Corps by the II American 
Corps on October 6th — The work of the Royal Air Force — A review of the situation on 
October 6th— Sir Douglas Haig's orders for the continuance of the offensive. 

At 8 a.m. on September 30th the 1st Division, operating west of the 

canal, attacked under cover of a creeping barrage. The 3rd Brigade on 

September 30th ; the the right advanced against Thorigny and Talana Hill, 

advance of the IX whilst the 1st Brigade co-operated by moving along 

Corps thg Jq^v groimd, with its left resting on the canal. 

Thorigny and Talana Hill were captured during the morning with little 

opposition, together with 300 prisoners of the 11th and the 79th Reserve 

Divisions. Early in the afternoon the 3rd Brigade linked up with the 

14th Brigade of the 32nd Division on the Le Tronquoy tunnel ; the 1st 

Brigade, crossing the canal, then relieved the 14th Brigade between Le 

Tronquoy and Levergies with two battalions. 

At the same time the 32nd Division continued to press forward 
with strong patrols of the 14th and 97th Brigades, while the 15th 
Lancashire Fusiliers, of the 96th Brigade which was in support, attacked 
Joncourt from the south-west. In spite of strong resistance the line was 
advanced to close to the southern outskirts of the village, and connection 
was established with the 5th Australian Division. During the day the 14th 
Brigade completed the "mopping up" of the Le Tronquoy tunnel defences, 
and at 7.30 p.m., in conjunction with troops of the 97th Brigade, 
attacked Levergies, capturing the village with 400 prisoners. 

170 




o 

D 






Sept aoTH] THE CAPTURE OF THE BEAUREVOIR LINE 171 

During the night of September 30th preparations were made for the 
14th Brigade to attack Sequehart ; for the 96th Brigade to operate against 
Joncourt in conjunction with the 5th Australian Division, and to gain 
the Beaurevoir-Fonsomme Line round Chataignies Wood in co-operation 
with the 97th Brigade. 

Meanwhile the 47th Division of the XV French Corps, which had 
relieved our 6th Division at Gricourt, had been ordered to attack towards 
the canal south of Le Tronquoy. Little progress was made during the 
afternoon of the 30th, but, on the morning of October 1st, the enemy's 
resistance weakened, and the canal was reached in the afternoon. The 
French then established connection with our 1st Brigade at Le Tronquoy, 
thus cutting out the 3rd Brigade of the 1st Division, which was withdrawTi 
into reserve. 

WTiile the IX Corps was operating around Le Tronquoy and Sequehart, 

the Australian Corps was engaged in the difficult task of clearing the 

The plan of opera- remainder of the Hindenburg main and reserve lines. 

tions of the Australian To add to the difficulties of the situation it was almost 

Corps certain that isolated parties of Americans were still 

holding out in advance of our line, although their exact position was not 

kno^vn. This very much limited the action of our artillery. 

The 5th Australian Division was ordered to attack with its right 
up the southern slopes of Mill Ridge, in conjunction with the attack of the 
32nd Division, and with its left working northwards towards Gouy along 
Railway Ridge. The 3rd Australian Division was ordered to attack 
simultaneously northwards along the main Hindenburg Line and along 
the tunnel towards The Knob. 

The 5th Australian Division attacked with the 8th and 14th Brigades, 
on the right and left respectively. The 8th Brigade made little head- 
way except on the right, where at 4 p.m. the 32nd 
5thAus*tS^nDiS'ion Battalion advanced in conjunction with the troops of 
the 32nd Division. An appreciable advance was made 
south-west of Joncourt, and a footing was established on the southern 
slopes of Mill Ridge. On the left the 14th Brigade employed the 53rd 
Battalion supported by the 55th, and attacked in co-operation with 
the 11th Brigade of the 3rd Australian Division. In order to keep 
the battalions of the 14th Brigade free to continue the attack, the 
15th Brigade, which was holding that part of the line, was instructed to 
take over from the 14th Brigade all ground gained by extending its left 
northwards. 

The attack started at 6 a.m. and was supported by a barrage. 
Machine-gun fire was encountered from the outset from Cabaret Wood 
Farm, from the Le Catelet-Nauroy Line, and from the exits from the tunnel 
east of Bony. In spite of this, the 53rd Battalion made steady progress, 
and by 1 p.m., with the help of a company of the 55th Battalion, had 
cleared the Le Catelet-Nauroy Line northwards for a distance of 1,200 
yards, and had repulsed several counter-attacks. ^ The 15th Brigade took 

^ In this attack Private John Ryan, 55th Battalion, displayed great bravery and initiative, 
and his action, when his officers and non-commissioned officers were disabled, saved a critical 
situation. See Appendix E, No. 38. 



172 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY [Sept. 30th 

over the greater part of the Le Catelet-Nauroy Line captured by the 14th 
Brigade, but was unable to clear Cabaret Wood Farm. 

The task of the 3rd Austrahan Division was rendered very difficult 
by heavy shelling from the north from the enemy's batteries on the 
high groimd about La Terriere, and by machine-gun fire from round 
Bony. To the 11th Brigade, less one battalion, but 
ard^/usSan DiSon Strengthened by two battalions of the 9th Brigade, was 
entrusted the clearing of the Hindenburg Line north and 
south of Bony from the south. The attack was to be made on a one- 
battalion front, each battalion being given a portion of the Hindenburg 
Line and the tunnel to " mop up." As each battalion completed its 
task, the next battalion was to pass through it and continue the 
operation. In order to assist the 11th Brigade as it worked its way up 
the Hindenburg Line and the tunnel from the south, the 10th Brigade 
was to operate eastwards against the enemy's defences between Bony 
and the northern entrance to the tunnel, by means of strong fighting 
patrols. The 9th Brigade, which had been moved during the night of 
September 29th to the area between Gillemont Farm and Malakoff ^Vood, 
was, with its two remaining battalions and one from the 11th Brigade, to 
ensure that touch was maintained between the attacks of the 10th and 
11th Brigades. 

The night of September 29th was dark and cold, and the movement 
of the troops, and particularly that of the 9th Brigade, through the mud 
and without landmarks, was very trying. Notwithstanding this, the 
troops were assembled up to time on the morning of September 30th. 

At 6 a.m. the attack of the 3rd Australian Division began simultane- 
ously with that of the 5th Australian Division. The 44th Battalion of 
the 11th Brigade led the advance behind a creeping barrage which moved 
northwards searching the trenches of the main Hindenburg Line. Progress 
was steady but slow, as movement except along the trenches was almost 
impossible. The Germans fought stubbornly for the possession of each 
post and machine-gun position, and hand grenades, Lewis guns, and 
especially the bayonet, were all freely employed during this reversion to 
trench warfare. By nightfall the 11th Brigade had cleared the trenches 
northwards for about 1,000 yards and had gained a footing in the outskirts 
of Bony.i 

During September 30th the 12th and 18th Divisions of the III Corps 

succeeded in driving the enemy across the canal at Vendhuile, and in 

clearing the village and the greater part of the area 

""'mSpf '^* ^'^^* ^^ *^^ ^^^^^- ^^^^ materially assisted the 10th 
Brigade of the 3rd Australian Division, which was thus 
able to advance eastwards on October 1st without further fear for its left 
flank. 

' During these operations the Australian Corps encountered another division from reserve, 
the 2nd Guard Di\ision, which had been sent up hurriedly in lorries on the 29th, and its three 
regiments divided among the 21st, 183th, and 121st Divisions. From prisoners' statements it 
appeared that the 1st Guard Grenadier Regiment had received orders to counter-attack early on 
the morning of the 30th, but that our attack had forestalled it. The moral of this division was 
by now very bad, the men being dispirited at being brought into the line for the third time during 
September, it having been previously engaged against the 18th Division at Trones Wood, and 
against the Australians at Mont St. Quentin. 



Panoramic photograph So. 8, to face pa^e 172. 



Road to Hard/court 




Pan->ramic phoioi'apb .Vo. 8. (» /»« ^Jjf I7S. 



RosJ to Hardicourt 





^-^^i^mm^.:- ■:-., 



*'?ci*Sȣ*^Sfe 



BONV from the wei 




o 

2 



Z 

D 
O 
a: 

u 



o 
n 




H 
a: 
< 

W 

a 

w 



Oct. 1ST] THE CAPTURE OF THE BEAUREVOIR LINE 173 

On the morning of October 1st the IX Corps held its line thus : the 

1st Division from Le Tronquoy to Levergies, with the 1st Brigade in the 

October 1st ; the K ^^^^' The 32nd Division held from Levergies to Jon- 

Corps operations ; the court, with the 14th, 97th, and 96th Brigades all in line 

32nd Division attack f^^^ fig^t to left, and with the 46th Division in support. 

The attack on Joncourt was launched at 8 a.m. on October 1st under 
cover of a barrage. The 15th Lancashire Fusiliers of the 96th Brigade 
entered the village from the south, and the Australians from the west. 
There was little resistance, as most of the enemy had retired to the 
Beaurevoir-Fonsomme Line during the night, and only eight prisoners 
were captured. 

The attack by the 32nd Division on the Beaurevoir-Fonsomme Line 
and Sequehart was not delivered until 4 p.m. This was a much more 
difficult operation, as the enemy's position on the high ground at Sequehart 
was one of great natural strength, and the Beaurevoir-Fonsomme Line 
at this point was well wired and strongly held. 

The infantry, accompanied by sixteen tanks from the 9th Mark V 
Tank Battalion, advanced under cover of a barrage. Sequehart was 
captured with great dash by the 5 /6th Royal Scots of the 14th Brigade 
with over 200 prisoners of the newly arrived 221st Division. The enemy, 
however, at once counter-attacked in strength, after shelling the village 
heavily, and drove the 5/6th Royal Scots back to the west of the village. 
Further north the 1 /5th Border of the 97th Brigade encircled Chataignies 
Wood and entered Preselles, but the frontal and enfilade machine-gun fire, 
which was encountered from the Beaurevoir-Fonsomme Line, rendered 
it impossible for our men to retain the ground gained, and they were 
finally withdrawn to the railway cutting 100 yards west of the wood. 

Complete success crowned the attack of the 96th Brigade on the left. 
The 2nd Manchester attacked with great gallantry, and was assisted by 
four tanks, while five tanks followed in rear to clear the trenches 
to the north of the objective. The battalion broke through the Beaurevoir- 
Fonsomme Line and, after stiff hand-to-hand fighting, cleared the line 
from Swiss Cottage to a point 1,400 yards south of it, capturing 210 
prisoners of the 2nd and 241st Divisions.^ In this attack the tanks ren- 
dered valuable assistance, although unfortunately three were hit just before 
" zero." In one of these tanks the whole crew except the officer became 
casualties ; picking up an officer and a man of the attacking battalion 
to work the machine-guns, the tank went into action and met with 
considerable success. The IX Corps had now gained a footing in the 
Beaurevoir-Fonsomme Line which would be of great value to it, and of this 
the enemy was fully aware. Repeated counter-attacks were made during 
the night against the left flank of the 96th Brigade, but the 2nd Manchester 
successfully maintained its position, with the assistance of a company of 
the 15th Lancashire Fusiliers which had been sent forward to reinforce it. 

During the evening of October 1st patrols of the 5th Cavalry Brigade, 
which had been transferred from the Australian to the IX Corps, passed 
beyond the Beaurevoir-Fonsomme Line to test the strength of the enemy's 

' The wire in front of these trenches was very thick, and the trench itself, although only one 
foot deep, contained numerous rifle and machine-gun pits. 



174 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY [Oct 1st 

defence. The village of Ramicourt and the ridge south of it were found 
to be strongly held with machine-guns, and the cavalry was withdrawn. 

The 5th Australian Division made an organised attack on October 1st 
with the object of completing the capture of Mill Ridge, and, if the enemy's 
The attack of the resistance showed any signs of weakening, of reaching 
Australian Corps the Bea\irevoir-Fonsomme Line east of Joncourt and 
continued Estrees. This attack was carried out by the 8th Brigade 

on the right, the 14th Brigade, less two battalions, in the centre, and the 
15th Brigade on the left.^ It was laimched at 6 a.m. in a thick ground 
mist, under cover of a barrage. On the right the 8th Brigade, assisted 
by two tanks of the 8th Mark V Tank Battalion, encountered only slight 
machine-gun fire, though the enemy's artillery fire was fairly heavy. The 
tanks rendered yeoman service, and Mill Ridge was captured by 7 a.m., 
whence patrols were sent out towards Joncourt. This village was entered 
from the west, and by 9 a.m. had been cleared with little opposition in 
co-operation with the 32nd Division. From here patrols attempted to 
reach the Beaurevoir-Fonsomme Line, but were unable to do so. Even- 
tually, the 8th Brigade established a line on the north-eastern slopes 
of Mill Ridge between Joncourt and Estrees, about 400 yards from the 
Beaurevoir-Fonsomme Line which the enemy was holding in considerable 
strength. 

In the centre the 56th and 54th Battalions of the 14th Brigade, on 
the right and left respectively, moved forward towards Estrees along the 
high grovmd south of Folemprise Farm, and by 7.30 a.m. the leading 
infantry had reached the outskirts of the village. Fifteen minutes later 
the advance was resumed by the 56th Battalion, which, with the assistance 
of eight tanks from the 8th Tank Battalion, cleared Estrees, taking a few 
prisoners ^ and some field guns. 

The 15th Brigade attacked with the 59th, 57th, and 58th Battalions 
from right to left. All the battalions made a good start, and by 7.30 a.m. 
Cabaret Wood Farm and Cabaret Copse had been captured, and the line 
advanced to the vicinity of Folemprise Farm and Mint Copse. Strong 
patrols then went forward, and Folemprise Farm and Mint Copse were 
secured without difficulty. The enemy's shelling, however, was severe, 
and to avoid casualties our line was withdrawn behind the crest of the 
spur running north-west from Folemprise Farm, while only a few posts 
were maintained along the Estrees-Gouy road. Later in the afternoon 
the line of this road was consolidated, and subsequently handed over to 
the 2nd Australian Division. 

While this fighting was in progress the 53rd and 55th Battalions of 
the 14th Brigade, which were astride of Railway Ridge, finding the enemy's 
resistance decidedly weakening, pushed forward and diiring the morning 

' The 14th Brigade had taken over part of the front north of Nauroy during the previous 
night with two battalions, leaving its 53rd and 55th battalions holding the line on the left of 
the 15th Brigade. 

* These prisoners belonged to the 119th Division, showing that yet another division had been 
thrown into the line. The division had arrived late in the evening of the 29th September, and had 
received orders to counter-attack should we succeed in capturing the front line positions. These 
instructions had, however, not been carried out, and the men had retired in the face of our attack. 
This division had only been relieved on the 20th September after suffering severely during our 
attack on September 18th. 



Oct 1ST-2ND] THE CAPTURE OF THE BEAUREVOIR LINE 175 

occupied practically the whole of the ridge. Communication was then 
established by these battalions with the 15th Brigade in the Soult valley, 
and with the 3rd Australian Division in the Vauban valley. 

On the front of the 3rd Australian Division the struggle had 
continued during the night of September 30th, and the pressure was main- 
tained persistently on October 1st. Although considerably exhausted 
by the trench fighting, the troops of the 3rd Australian Division made 
good progress, and by 12 noon Bony, The Knob, the main Hinden- 
burg Line, and the tunnel had been captured. The enemy still held 
Macquincourt Farm and was not ejected from it until the following night, 
when patrols of the 10th Brigade drove him across the canal. The 10th 
and 11th Brigades consolidated the ground gained during the afternoon 
and pushed forward patrols east of the tunnel and towards Le Catelet 
and Gouy. 

On the night of September 30th, after the successful attack on 
Vendhuile, the 18th Division took over the whole of the III Corps front, 
relieving the 12th Division, which was transferred to 
"lytoeS CorpI"^ ^^^ First Army by 'bus three days later. On the 
night of October 1st the 149th Brigade of the 50th 
Division relieved the 18th Division, which, on relief, moved back to a rest 
area near Amiens. At 12 noon on October 1st Sir Thomas Morland, 
commanding the XIII Corps, took over command of the front held by 
the 18th Division from Sir Richard Butler, and the III Corps Headquarters 
were transferred to the Fifth Army on October 3rd. Since March, the III 
Corps had been holding a sector of the Fovuth Army front without a rest. 
During the months of April, ]May, June, and July it was busily engaged 
in supervising the construction of defences to cover Amiens. From 
August 8th onwards it had taken an important part in a period of almost 
continuous fighting, during which the III Corps with five di\nsions had en- 
gaged twenty German divisions, taking 13,700 prisoners and 150 guns. 
The outstanding feature of this period had undoubtedly been the powers 
of endurance of officers and men, and their cheerful response to the 
incessant demands made upon them. 

During October 2nd the 1st Brigade of the 1st Division spent a trying 

and unsatisfactory day. Its role was to keep touch with the left of the 

47th French Division, which was passing over the tunnel 

action°orthe°ix Co%s ^* ^^ Tronquoy and attacking south-east, and also with 

the right of the 32nd Division on the Le Tronquoy- 

Sequehart ridge. On the right the French were unable to make any 

appreciable progress, while on the left the 32nd Division, after capturing 

Sequehart for the second time, had again been forced to withdraw. The 

result was that the 1st Brigade, without being actually engaged in the fight, 

sustained considerable casualties from shell fire. The excellent information, 

however, as to the situation on this flank of the army, which was sent 

in by the 1st Loyal North Lancashire and the 1st Cameron Highlanders 

during the day. was of the greatest value. 

At 6 a.m. on the morning of October 2nd, the 14th Brigade renewed 
its efforts to capture Sequehart with the 5 /6th Royal Scots. Once more 
the village was secured and 100 prisoners taken, but again a strong 



176 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY [Oct 2nd 

counter-attack by the 221st Division three hours later drove our men back to 
their original position on the western edge of the village,^ It was essential 
for the enemy to maintain his hold on Sequehart, which commanded all the 
ground to the east, south, and west. He appreciated its great tactical 
importance, and realised that its capture by us would widen the breach 
already made in the Masnieres-Beaurevoir-Fonsomme Line, which was 
his last prepared line of defence, and would also enable us to tiirn his 
positions north of St. Quentin. 

At 8.30 a.m. on the 2nd the 97th Brigade employed one company of 
the 10th Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders in an attempt to extend our 
hold on the Beaurevoir-Fonsomme Line north of Preselles,- while simul- 
taneously the 96th Brigade launched an attack against Ramicourt. Both 
attacks were checked by the enemy's machine-gun fire. 

As the result of the determined fighting by the 32nd Division during 
the past three days, the IX Corps had added materially to its previous 
success and had driven the wedge deeper into the enemy's position.^ 
On the evening of the 2nd the IX Corps held a front of some 8,000 yards 
from Le Tronquoy to Swiss Cottage. This line ran along the high ridge to 
Sequehart, along the western outskirts of that village, thence to a 
point 1,000 yards north-west of Preselles, from which point to Swiss Cottage 
we held the Beaurevoir-Fonsomme Line. The 1st Division held from 
Le Tronquoy to just south of Sequehart, while the 32nd Division held 
thence to Swiss Cottage. 

During the night of October 1st the 5th Brigade of the 2nd Australian 

Division relieved the 5th Australian Division between Joncourt and 

The relief of the 3rd Mint Copsc. No operations were undertaken during 

and 5th Australian the day on October 2nd, and that night the 

Divisions remainder of the 3rd Australian Division was 

relieved as far south as Mont St. Martin, by the 151st Brigade, of the 

50th Division of the XIII Corps. This left the 2nd Australian Division 

holding the Australian Corps front between Joncourt and Mont St. Martin.* 

On relief the 3rd and 5th Australian Divisions moved back to rest areas 

near Amiens. They had successfully completed a most difficult operation, 

after four days of almost continuous fighting, and, like the 1st and 4th 

Australian Divisions, they had fought their last fight in the Great War. 

The front of the Fourth Army was held on the night of October 2nd 

1 According to the German wireless, intercepted that day, the counter-attack was led in person 
by the Divisional Commander. 

* During this attack the bravery and devotion of a sergeant and eight men of the company 
of the 10th Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders were in keeping with the best traditions of their 
regiment. This party entered some trenches which it was thought were already held by us, and from 
which it was to push southwards and join up with the troops attacking from the west. But the 
enemy was holding this portion of the trench in considerable strength, and severe hand-to-hand 
fighting ensued. The bodies of the sergeant and his eight men were subsequently found in the 
thirty yards of trench which they had cleared. Eleven deserted machine-guns and 16 dead 
Germans proved the stubbornness with which the Highlanders had fought. 

* With three British divisions the IX Corps had defeated portions of four divisions in the 
line and of four divisions from reserve. Of the latter the enemy had hurried up reserve battalions 
belonging to both the 84th and 241st Divisions from the La F6re area, as well as the whole of the 
221st Division from south of St. Quentin, and the 25th Reserve Division from close support in the 
Lesdins area. 

* The 54th Battalion of the 5th Division remained in line until the morning of the 3rd 
between Mint Copse and Mont St. Martin. 



Skfitb Wo. 9, i,/m, ptp 177. 







W^i:>^ 



^.'^fi^^t:ii„(g^.' 



BEAUREVOIR and BEAUREX'OIR MILL. 



Oct. 2nd] the capture of the BEAUREVOIR line 177 

by the IX, Australian, and XIII Corps. The front of the IX 

Corps was held by the 1st, 32nd, and 46th Divisions ;^ that of the 

Australian Corps by the 2nd Australian Division ; that 

eJlli'iiS*^i*octobe° 2nd ^^ ^^^ ^^^^ ^°^'P^ ^^^ *^^ ^^^^ Division, with the 25th 
and 66th Divisions in support. Our line was within 
easy striking distance of the Masnieres-Beaurevoir-Fonsomme Line. The 
breach made in the Hindenburg defences on September 29th had now 
been considerably widened, and these defences had been captured 
from Le Tronquoy to Vendhuile, while to the south our advance had 
enabled the First French Army to occupy St. Quentin and reach the line 
of the canal. During this time the left of the Third Army had captured 
Masnieres, had secured the crossings over the canal between that village 
and the outskirts of Cambrai, and was continuing its attacks. The 
Canadian Corps also on the right of the First Army was making good 
progress north of Cambrai. 

It was considered that one more determined attack would give us the 
Masnieres-Beaurevoir-Fonsomme Line on the whole of the Fourth Army 
front. This would turn the enemy's defences in front of the right of the 
Third Army, thus enabling it to advance the whole of its line, while 
to the south it would enable the French to advance east of St. Quentin. 
Again, as in the case of the Mont St. Quentin operations and of the 
attack against the outer defences of the Hindenburg Line, time was of 
great importance. The enemy was still greatly disorganised as the 
result of the fighting since September 29th, and, by attacking him again 
on October 3rd, he would be prevented from either reorganising his troops 
or carrying out an orderly retirement. 

Sir Henry Rawlinson had on October 1st decided to attack this line 

on October 3rd. He wished to secure the high ground about Mannequin 

The orders for the Hill, the villages of Montbrehain and Beaurevoir, Prospect 

attack on October 3rd Hill, and the hill north of Gouy and Le Catelet. Orders 

(see Map 11) for the necessary readjustment of fronts and the allotting 
of objectives had been issued on October 1st to the IX. Australian, and 
XIII Corps, and they had been making preparations for the attack. On 
October 2nd it was decided that " zero " should be 6.5 a.m. on the 3rd. 

On the right the IX Corps, operating in conjunction with the First 
French Army, Avas to capture Sequehart and Ramicoui-t, and 
The objecHves and &s a sccond objective was given Mannequin Hill and 
frontages of the Montbrehain. For this attack, the 32nd and 46th 
attack Divisions were employed in the centre and on the left 

respectively; the latter division was to maintain touch with the 
2nd Australian Division on the road between Joncourt and Wiancourt. 
To the 1st Division, on the right of the 32nd Division, was entrusted the 
role of maintaining touch with the First French Army. In addition, the 
5th Cavalry Brigade was to follow the infantry closely and seize any 
opportunity for mounted action which might arise. The Australian Corps, 
employing the 2nd Australian Division, was to capture the Masnieres- 
Beaurevoir-Fonsomme Line north of Swiss Cottage and, if possible, 
Beaurevoir and Ponchavix. The XIII Corps allotted the difficult task of 

1 The 46th Division relieved the 96th Brigade of the 32nd Division on the night of October 2nd. 

A A 



178 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY [Oct 3rd 

clearing Gouy and Le Catelet and of gaining Prospect Hill to the 50th 
Division. 

\Vhile these operations were in progress, the Third Army was to 
co-operate by exploiting east of the canal towards Aubencheul-aux-Bois. 
To the south, Marshal Foch ordered the First French Army to press 
forward east and south-east from Le Tronquoy and so support the right 
flank of the Fourth Army, which for the past two days had been repeatedly 
counter-attacked from the south-east, these attacks being chiefly directed 
against the 32nd Division at Sequehart. 

The IX Corps attack was launched at 6.5 a.m. under cover of a heavy 

barrage, and supported by sixteen tanks of the 5th Mark V Tank Battalion. 

3 d • th IX ^^ ^^^^ right the 1st Division held the front south 

Corps attack ; the of Sequehart with the 1st Brigade in the line and 

action of the 1st the 3rd Brigade in close support. Although no definite 

Division attack was to be carried out by the division, the 1st 

Brigade, in order to keep close touch with the French on the right and 

with the 32nd Division on the left, and to assist the 32nd Division 

which was attacking Sequehart from the north-west, was compelled 

to extend its left northwards. This resulted in the 1st Loyal North 

Lancashire becoming involved in the fighting in the south-eastern portion 

of Sequehart, where it repulsed an enemy counter-attack with the bayonet 

and captured 40 prisoners. 

The 32nd and 46th Divisions completed their assembly early in the 

morning of October 3rd and began their advance at 6.5 a.m. The 32nd 

The attacks of the Division attacked Sequehart from the north-west with 

32nd and 46th the 14th Brigade, assisted by four Mark V tanks, and 
Divisions i^j^g Beaurevoir-Fonsomme Line north of Sequehart with 

the 97th Brigade. After hard fighting, the 5 /6th Royal Scots, which had 
at its own request again been allotted this task, captured Sequehart and 
gained a footing in the trench line north of it, taking 200 prisoners. 
The enemy once more made a great effort to recapture Sequehart, 
and two counter-attacks were delivered by the 34th and 84th Divisions. 
Both counter-attacks were driven off, and all the captured ground was 
retained, partly owing to the prompt action of two companies of the 
15th Highland Light Infantry, which, led by their battalion commander, 
swept through the village and cleared it with the bayonet ; partly to the 
action of the 1st Loyal North Lancashire of the 1st Division ; and partly 
also to the stubborn manner in which the 5/6th Royal Scots clung to the 
village it had three times captured. 

The line gained by the 32nd Division was finally established in touch 
with the 1st Division at Chardon Vert and with the 46th Division on the 
left. At 6 p.m. the enemy put down a heavy barrage on the area 
captured, and under cover of it attacked from the east and south- 
east, but was again repulsed with heavy loss by rifle and machine- 
gun fire. 

The 46th Division attacked with the 137th Brigade on the right and 
the 139th Brigade on the left. Owing to the fact that the 32nd Division 
only held portions of the Beaurevoir-Fonsomme Line, it was decided that 
the 46th Division should form up on a track somewhat behind the line 



Oct 3rd] THE CAPTURE OF THE BEAUREVOIR LINE 179 

held, which could be found in the dark and which allowed a straight 
barrage to be put down, a most important factor, as many batteries 
had not been able to get into position before dark. The 32nd Division 
arranged to have its troops withdra\Mi behind the " starting line " by 
" zero." The arduous task of forming up on a dark night on unrecon- 
noitred ground was successfully carried out, and at 6.5 a.m., supported by 
two companies of ^lark V tanks, the infantry moved forward behind a 
good barrage. The 137th Brigade went through to its objective without 
a check and reached Mannequin Hill, but the 139th Brigade in advancing 
to Ramicourt, after penetrating the Beaurevoir-Fonsomme Line, found 
its left flank exposed, owing to touch being lost with the Australians, 
who were experiencing very severe opposition in the Beaurevoir-Fonsomme 
Line on the left. Two companies, however, were promptly moved forward 
to the left flank to link up with the Australians, and formed a protective 
flank through Wiancourt, where they captured about 200 prisoners. 

The enemy attempted to hold Ramicoiu-t, but was driven out of the 
village with the assistance of the tanks, ^ after which his resistance 
weakened, and the 139th Brigade, pushing forward rapidly, cleared 
Montbrehain and captured 1,000 prisoners and a battery of field guns.^ 
In Ramicourt and Montbrehain over a hundred French inhabitants were 
found and sent back through our lines. 

By 10.30 a.m. all the objectives allotted to the 46th Division, including 
Mannequin Hill and Montbrehain, had been gained. The division, however, 
had suffered heavy casualties, and about 1 p.m. our troops were driven 
off Mannequin Hill by a determined counter-attack,^ This withdrawal 
caused a considerable gap in our line south of Montbrehain, and the 
troops of the 139th Brigade were slowly forced back out of that village 
by a second and even stronger counter-attack delivered by portions of 
the German 21st, 221st, and 241st Divisions. The 137th and 139th 
Brigades of the 46th Division now held a general line along the western 
slopes of Mannequin Hill, and east of Ramicourt and Wiancourt. The 
138th Brigade, from reserve, was moved up in close support to the Beaure- 
voir-Fonsomme Line. At 6 p.m. the enemy, encouraged by his success, 
again attacked the 137th Brigade and drove it off the western slopes of 
Mannequin Hill. An immediate counter-attack regained the western 
slopes of the hill, but the enemy still held the eastern slopes ; the 
summit, on account of the severity of the fire, was at this time held by 
neither side.* 

On the right of the IX Corps the XV French Corps had 

' While operating south of Montbrehain a tank was exposed to the fire of 16 machine-guns 
holding a strong point. It destroyed all the crews of these guns before it was in its turn disabled 
by the enemy's artillery fire. 

2 Sergeant William Johnson, l/5th Sherwood Foresters, here materially assisted the advance 
of his battalion by capturing two machine-gun posts single-handed. See Appendix E. No. 27. 

' It was during this retirement that Lee. -Corp. Coltman, a stretcher-bearer of the 1 /6th North 
Staffordshire, so distinguished himself by his courage and devotion to duty See Appendix E, 
No. 11. 

* The fighting in this operation had been severe, and the -teth Division had suffered considerable 
losses, especially in officers, but, in comparison with our casualties, those of the enemy must have 
been very great, as the 46th Division alone captured 2,000 prisoners. Since the" morning of 
September 29th the 46th Division had captured 6,000 prisoners and over 70 guns at a cost of 
2,500 killed, wounded, and missing. 



180 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY [Oct 3rd 

attacked towards Fontaine Uterte at 10 a.m., but had been unable 
to gain much ground. 

During the night of October 3rd the 126th French 

'"'VMnch °Com ^^ Division of the First French Army took over the southern 

portion of the IX Corps front as far north as Chardon 

Vert, thus reheving the 1st Division. This division was then withdrawn 

to the Vraignes area with the exception of the 3rd Brigade, which was 

placed temporarily at the disposal of the 46th Division. 

On the night of October 2nd the 7th Australian Brigade took over 

the front from Folemprise Farm to Mont St. Martin from the 5th Brigade ; 

The Australian Corps ; the 6th Brigade, in reserve, was concentrated south of 

the attack o£ the 2nd Nauroy. The 5th and 7th Brigades formed up for the 

Australian Division attack each with two battalions in line. The leading 

battalions were to capture the Beaurevoir-Fonsomme Line, after which the 

two supporting battalions of each brigade were to "leap-frog" the leading 

battalions and capture the final objectives. The 5th Brigade was 

allotted eight tanks of the 13th Mark V Tank Battalion, and eight 

whippet tanks of the 3rd BattaHon. Eight tanks of the 8th and 16th Mark V 

Tank Battalions assisted the 7th Brigade. The approach march of the 

tanks to the assembly positions was long and difficult, owing to the darkness 

md the number of trenches and shell holes, and only six of the Mark V 

tanks allotted the 5th Brigade arrived. These had to cover a distance of 

8,500 yards. 

At " zero ' the barrage came down covering the " starting line " and 
remained stationary there for six minutes, after which pause it advanced 
at the rate of 100 yards every four minutes. The barrage was good, and 
the infantry started well up to it ; the tanks, however, were late, though 
those that survived the approach march caught up the infantry later. 

The 18th and 19th Battalions, on the right and left of the 5th Brigade 
front respectively, gained the support trench of the Beaurevoir-Fonsomme 
Line between 7.15 a.m. and 7.45 a.m., with the exception of 500 yards of 
trench immediately south of the Estrees-Geneve road.^ Here, the two 
inner companies of each of these battalions were unable to penetrate the 
thick Avire in the face of heavy machine-gun fire, and no tanks had as 
yet arrived. These four companies were withdra\vn to the sunken road 
east of Estrees, and the troops which were already in the support trench 
endeavoured to clear the trenches by working inwards from the north 
and south, but without success. The trenches were then subjected to 
thirty minutes' bombardment, after which two companies of the 19th 
Battalion attacked from the north and captured the trenches, together 
with 200 prisoners and 18 machine-guns. 

Meanwhile, when the 18th and 19th Battalions had reached the support 
trenches of the Beaurevoir-Fonsomme Line on the flanks, the 17th on the 
right and the 20th on the left had passed through them. Only two companies 
of the 17th Battalion were able to go forward, as the remaining two 
companies had become involved in the struggle for the trenches which had 
held up the first attack. The advance of the 17th Battalion was checked 

* laeut. .Joseph Maxwell, 18th Battalion, displayed fine leadership in this attack. See 
Appendix E. No. 35. 



ffir 




o 
> 



2: 



z 

O 



s 



-a 



Oct 3rd] THE CAPTURE OF THE BEAUREVOIR LINE 181 

north-east of Wiancourt by machine-gun and artillery fire, but later it 
was reinforced by a company of the 19th Battalion and gained touch with 
the 46th Division on the right. The 20th Battahon, in passing through 
the Beaurevoir-Fonsomme Line, was deflected to the left by the machine- 
gun fire from the trenches which had held up the ioui companies of the 
18th and 19th Battalions.^ It advanced as far as the road junction near 
Beaurevoir Mill, but was forced to withdraw down the western slopes of 
the hill. Thus, owing to the advance of the 17th and 20th Battalions 
having been diverted outwards, there was a wide gap between them, 
which was further accentuated by the enemy's tenacious defence of La 
Motte Farm. Shortly before noon, however, after the Germans had been 
cleared out of the trenches east of Estrees, the four companies of the 18th 
and 19th Battalions advanced, captured La Motte Farm with the aid 
of two tanks, and filled the gap with a line of posts. By 2 p.m. the 5th 
Brigade held the general line Wiancourt-La Motte Farm with all four 
battalions in line, and with the 23rd Battalion of the 6th Brigade in close 
support. 

On the front of the 7th Brigade the 25th Battalion on the 
right advanced about 500 yards and captured some enemy posts -without 
difficulty; the 27th Battahon on the left met with some resistance, 
but reached the Torrens Canal. Both battalions were now close up to the 
Masnieres-Beaurevoir Line, and, with the assistance of two tanks which 
had caught up the 25th Battahon, the line was captured. One company 
of the 27th Battalion encountered about 100 of the enemy lining a bank 
and firing at the troops of the 50th Division advancing on the left, but 
Lewis guns were promptly brought to bear on them, and, after 40 of the 
enemy had been killed, the remaining 60 surrendered. The whole of the 
support trenches ofthe Masnieres-Beaurevoir Line on the 7th Brigade front 
had been secured by 8 a.m. ; touch, however, had been temporarily lost 
with the XIII Corps north-west of Lormisset Farm. 

At 8 a.m. the 26th and 28th Battalions " leap-frogged " the leading 
battalions, the 26th Battalion advancing towards Belle\'ue Farm, and 
the 28th Battalion working northwards up the Masnieres-Beaurevoir 
Line. Belle\'ue Farm was captured, the dug-outs and cellars were cleared, 
and two field guns were secured just beyond the farm. With the Germans, 
however, still in possession of Beaurevoir Mill hill and the high ground 
north of Bellevue Farm, and also debouching from Beaurevoir, the 
position of the right of the 26th Battalion was very exposed. It was, 
therefore, withdrawn from Bellexoie Farm, and gained touch with the 
5th Brigade in the Kukri valley. The 28th Battalion reached the Beau- 
revoir-Gouy road with practically no opposition, but north of the road 
the opposition stiffened, and at 9.30 a.m. the advance was checked. 
Strong fighting patrols then moved north-east and endeavoured to reach 
Prospect Hill, but field guns firing from the vicinity of Guisancourt Farm, 
combined with machine-gun fire from Prospect Hill and Beaurevoir, 
prevented this manoeuvre from being successful. During the afternoon 
attempts were made by both the 26th and 28th Battahons to push forward 

' This was an interesting case of an exception to the general tendency of troops to be drawn 
in the direction from which fire is coming. 



182 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY [Oct 3rd 

with the object of regaining Belle vue Farm and the intervening ground 
between it and Guisancourt Farm, but with only limited success, and the 
line was established from south-east of Bellevue Farm to the Masnieres- 
Beaurevoir Line 500 yards south of Guisancourt Farm, where a junction 
was made with the 50th Division on Prospect Hill. 

In view of the resistance offered to the advance of the 5th and 7th 
Brigades, Maj.-Gen. Rosenthal decided to employ the three battalions of the 
6th Brigade which were still in reserve, in order to gain the high ground 
north-west of Montbrehain, and Beaurevoir Mill ; the 22nd, 23rd, and 
24th Battalions were, therefore, placed at the disposal of the 5th Brigade. 
The 21st Battalion, which had already reinforced the 7th Brigade, remained 
with it, and, as this brigade had reached most of its objectives, and an 
assault on Beaurevoir was not to be attempted that day, the 21st Bat- 
talion was not employed and remained in support at Folemprise Farm. 
The 22nd, 23rd, and 24th Battalions assembled in the Beaurevoir-Fon- 
somme Line north-east of Estrees during the afternoon. At 6.30 p.m. 
they advanced, and ten minutes later, when the barrage lifted, passed 
through the battalions of the 5th Brigade. By 8.30 p.m. all three 
battalions had secured their objective Avithout difficulty and had joined 
up with the 46th Division north of Ramicourt. 

The 2nd Australian Division during the day's operations had captured 
the Masnieres-Beaurevoir-Fonsomme Line on a front of about 6,000 yards. 
The enemy's losses in killed were very heavy, and the prisoners captured 
amounted to 28 officers and 1,164 other ranks, belonging to the 21st, 
25th, and 119th Divisions, together with 163 machine-guns and 11 field 
guns. Eleven Australian battalions, Avhose average fighting strength was 
260 rifles, were engaged in the fighting ; their casualties were not more 
than 1,000 killed, wounded, and missing.^ 

On the XIII Corps front the 50th Division had assembled for the 
attack with two brigades in line. The 151st Brigade on the right was 
The xra Corps ; the disposed with the 6th Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers and 
attack of the 50th the 4th King's Royal Rifle Corps in line, and with the 1st 
Division King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry in close support. 

In addition, the 2nd Northumberland Fusiliers of the 150th Brigade was 
placed at the disposal of the 151st Brigade, and took up a position west 
of Mont St. Martin to ensure touch being kept with the Australian Corps, 
The 149th Brigade on the left had two of its battalions holding a defen- 
sive flank along the canal, and one in support near The Knob. The 
150th Brigade, less one battalion, was held in divisional reserve near 
Bony. 

The attack was successfully launched at 6.5 a.m. Moving forward 
through the mist, the infantry kept close up to the barrage, which advanced 
at the rate of 100 yards every four minutes. The 151st Brigade entered 
Le Catelet and Gouy before 7 a.m., but touch on the right was temporarily 
lost with the Australians who had reached Lormisset Farm. This was 
due to the deflection of the 6th Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers to the left. 

' An unsolicited tribute to the skill and enterprise of the Australians was given by a German 
officer captured by the 25th Battalion, who exclaimed, " You Australians are all bluff ; you attack 
with practically no men and are on the top of us before we know where we are." 




< 

h 
ai 

O 
u 
Z 

O 

< 
S 

Q 
Z 
< 

w 
w 

< 

w 
►J 



o 
o 



Oct 3rdJ CAPTURE OF THE BEAUREVOIR LINE 183 

This Battalion had been allotted the task of capturing Prospect Hill, but 
it was caught in flank by machine-gun fire from Gouy, and the well-known 
tendency of all troops to be drawn in the direction from which fire is 
coming at once showed itself ; the battalion swung round to the left and 
became involved in the fighting in Gouy. The Commanding Officer of 
the 1st King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry quickly grasped the situation, 
and, showing sound judgment and initiative, immediately moved his 
battalion forward with all speed. It succeeded in catching up the barrage, 
and by 10 a.m. had secured Prospect Hill and joined up with the Aus- 
tralians. The 6th Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers and the 4th King's Royal 
Rifle Corps, meanwhile, pushed through Gouy and Le Catelet, and by 
10.30 a.m., after some stubborn fighting, the 54th German Division was 
driven out of these villages, except for small parties which still lurked 
in the cellars and dug-outs. The objective had now been reached along 
the front of the 50th Division, except on the left centre where the situation 
was uncertain. Consequently, it was arranged that the artillery fire should 
lift off the high ground north of Le Catelet at 11.30 a.m., and that strong 
patrols should endeavour to seize it. Failing this, the two battalions of 
the 150th Brigade which had not as yet been engaged, were to capture the 
high ground during the afternoon. As the employment of these two 
battalions would have left the 50th Division without any reserves, one 
battalion of the 7th Brigade of the 25th Division was ordered up to the 
vicinity of Mont St. Martin. ^ 

At 12 noon our line on Prospect Hill was firmly established and was 
continued along the northern outskirts of Gouy and Le Catelet to Macquin- 
court Farm. An hour later a strong counter-attack against Gouy was 
delivered by at least five battalions of the 21st Reserve Division, which 
had been brought down from further north for the purpose. This attack 
was made down the valley from Aubencheul-aux-Bois, and after a stiff 
fight the enemy succeeded in penetrating to the centre of Gouy. The 
2nd Northumberland Fusiliers of the 150th Brigade was sent forward, 
and, forming up south of Gouy, soon drove the enemy out of the village. 
By 7 p.m. the 50th Division was firmly established north of Gouy and 
Le Catelet. The 150th Brigade then relieved the 151st Brigade on 
Prospect Hill and north of Gouy, the latter brigade being withdrawn 
into reserve about Bony. 

As the result of the fighting on October 3rd, nine different German 

divisions had been engaged by the Fourth Army, of which two divisions had 

,, „ ,^ been brought up from reserve, and one had been brought 

Say's'ShSig do^^''^ f^o"^^ the front of the Third Army. Fighting had 
been severe on most parts of the front, and the number 
of counter-attacks, five in all, showed that the enemy had received 
orders to hold the Masnieres-Beaurevoir-Fonsomme Line at all costs. 
Evidence of a retirement, to be carried out shortly to a line further in 
rear, began to accumulate as prisoners were examined. An Alsatian 
prisoner, whose information was regarded as reliable, stated that railways 
and roads were being mined in the back areas, and that the bridges were 

' This order was cancelled later, as Maj.-Gen. Jackson considered he had sufficient troops 
available. 



184 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY [Oct 4th 

being prepared for demolition at Le Cateau and Busigny. It seemed 
likely, therefore, that the more active resistance of the enemy during the 
day was intended to cover the preparations for a withdrawal. 

Although we had gained a tactical victory on October 3rd, we had 
not compelled the enemy to withdraw in front of the right of the Third 
Army as we had hoped to do. This could only be accomplished by the 
capture of Beaurevoir, and by extending the salient which we had already 
made in the enemy's line. The 2nd Australian Division, however, was 
too weak in numbers to renew the attack on the same frontage as on 
October 3rd, and it was, therefore, arranged that the XIII Corps should 
extend its front southwards to the Torrens Canal immediately north of 
La Motte Farm. This front was taken over that night by the 50th Division 
with the 7th Brigade, which had moved up from Ronssoy to Quennemont 
Farm during the afternoon of October 3rd, the 74th and 75th Brigades 
moving respectively up to Mont St. Martin and Ste. Emilie from Moislains 
and Nurlu. The 7th Australian Brigade, when relieved, moved back into 
reserve near Nauroy. 

Orders were issued on the evening of October 3rd for the attack to 
be continued on the 4th. The IX Corps was to seize Mannequin Hill and 
The orders for the ^^^ high ground north-east of it ; the Australian Corps 
continuance of the was to make a small advance on the high ground north- 
attack on October 4th ^ygg^ of Montbrehain, capture Geneve, and support the 
right of the XIII Corps. The XIII Corps was to make the main attack ; 
it was to capture Beaurevoir, to advance its line north of Prospect Hill, 
and to seize Guisancourt Farm and the high ground north of Le Catelet 
about La Pannerie South. It was arranged that the First French Army 
was to co-operate with this attack by an advance towards Fontaine 
Uterte. 

On the front of the IX Corps no advance was made. On the night 

of October 3rd the 139th Brigade had been relieved by the 138th Brigade 

and 1/lst Monmouthshire (Pioneers), and, early on the 

October 4th; the morning of October 4th, the 137th and 138th Brigades 

action of the EC Corps & , j.x i j i> xi. j- x- r nr • 

were counter-attacked irom the direction oi Mannequin 

Hill ; this forestalled our attack and kept our troops fully employed in 
repulsing it. At nightfall the 3rd Brigade of the 1st Division, tem- 
porarily attached to the 46th Division, relieved the 137th Brigade, 
while the 2nd Australian Division relieved the 138th Brigade, thus 
permitting the infantry brigades of the 46th Division to be withdrawn 
into reserve. 

In the centre of the army front the subsidiary attack by two battalions 
of the 6th Brigade of the 2nd Australian Division encountered machine- 
gun fire from the outset. For a short time touch with 

. J^^ ^*'°° „.*?? the 25th Division was lost, but was regained later by 

2nd Australian Division „.^ a . i- rt • j • _x- i> •/ 

the 7th Australian Brigade moving up a portion of its 

support battalion. By 9 a.m. an advance of 1,000 yards had been made 

on the left, while on the right the line was moved forward to within 300 

yards of the railway. 

On the XIII Corps front Sir Thomas Morland's orders were for the 

25th Division on the right to capture Beaurevoir by enveloping it from 



Oct. *rH] THE CAPTURE OF THE BEAUREVOm LINE 185 

the north and south, and also to secure Ponchaux and Guisancourt Farm. 

The task of the 50th Division on the left was to capture the high grovmd 

north of Gouy and Le Catelet, between La Pannerie 

The xm Corps attack South and Richmond Quarry'. It was intended that, 

if this attack was successful, the V Corps of the Third 

Army should push the 38th Division through Gouy to work northwards 

behind the Hindcnburg Line towards La Terriere. Very little time was 

available for preparations, and consequently the assembly of the troops 

for the attack was a matter of some difficulty owing to insufficient 

opportimity for reconnaissance, the darkness of the night, and the heavy 

rain. 

The attack started at 6.10 a.m. under a barrage, in a dense fog which 
continued until a late hour in the morning and precluded all observation. 
The right of the 7th Brigade of the 25th Division reached the high ground 
west of Ponchaux and was in touch with the Australians, but it suffered 
heavily from fire from Beaurevoir and Ponchaux and was forced to with- 
draw. Although the left of the brigade made some progress towards Guisan- 
court Farm, it was checked in front of Beaurevoir. It became clear early 
in the afternoon that the 7th Brigade was not strong enough to complete its 
task alone, and INIaj.-Gen. Charles began his preparations for renewing 
the attack next day with stronger forces. 

Meanwhile, the 50th Division had captured La Pannerie South ; its 
left, however, was held up by machine-gun fire from Hargival Farm and Rich- 
mond Copse, and for some time no progress was made beyond the sunken 
road between Le Catelet and Hargival Farm. Later in the afternoon the 
enemy's resistance weakened on this flank, and by 6 p.m. the 149th Brigade 
had captured Hargival Farm. The 50th Division then established a line 
along the northern slopes of Prospect Hill through La Pannerie South to 
Hargival Farm, pending the arrival of the 38th Division of the V Corps, 
which was already on its way to pass through the 50th Division and 
continue the attack northwards. 

While the fighting was in progress on the Fourth Army front, the 

First French Army resumed its advance south-east of Le Tronquoy. 

Attacking at 10 a.m. the XV French Corps entered the 

The progress ol the outskirts of Lesdins, but was checked by machine-gxm 

fire from Flatiron Wood south of Chardon Vert. The 

troops west of the canal found the enemy's resistance weakening, and, 

pushing patrols across, captured Morcourt. 

The attack on Beaurevoir on October 4th having been unsuccessful, 

it was decided to continue the attack on the following day, and to captiure 

_„ , . ,, , the village together with the high ground between La 

for the capture of Sablonnierc and Guisancoiu't Farm. Simultaneously, 

Montbrehain and an attack was to be delivered on Montbrehain by the 

Beaurevoir 2nd Australian Division. To enable this operation to be 

carried out, the 2nd Australian Division extended its front southwards 

during the night of October 4th as far as a point 1,000 yards south-east 

of Ramieourt, relieving the 138th Brigade of the 46th Division with the 

2nd Australian Pioneer Battalion. The IX Corps was to assist the 

Australians with artillery fire, and to protect their southern flank by 

B B 



186 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY [Oct. 5re 

securing Mannequin Hill and the high ground south of Montbrehain by 
means of strong fighting patrols. 

When they advanced on October 5th, the patrols of the IX Corps 

made some progress up the slopes of Mannequin Hill, but were unable 

October 5th • the K *° secure the summit, with the result that the 

Corps at Mannequin enemy holding the high ground south of Montbrehain 

Hill subjected our infantry advancing through that 

village to enfilade fire. 

The 6th Australian Brigade formed up for the attack on Montbrehain 
with the 21st Battalion on the right and the 24th Battalion on the left. 
The capture of The 23rd and 22nd Battalions were to hold the remainder 
Montbrehain by the of the divisional front to the north, and were to keep touch 
2nd Australian DivUion ^yj^j^ ^-j^g 25th Division south of Ponchaux. The 2nd Aus- 
tralian Pioneer Battalion was to support the 21st and 24th Battalions and 
protect their right flank as they advanced. The 18th Battalion of the 5th 
Brigade and the 27th Battalion of the 7th Brigade were placed at the 
disposal of the 6th Brigade Commander as a reserve against hostile 
counter-attacks, and by " zero " these two battalions were concentrated 
south and north of Wiancourt respectively. 

The attack v/as assisted by twelve tanks of the 16th Mark V Tank 
Battalion, four each being allotted to the 21st, 24th, and the 2nd 
Australian Pioneer Battalions ; eight brigades of field artillery supplied 
the creeping barrage, which covered the advance at the rate of 100 yards 
every four minutes. 

The assembly was completed under fairly heavy shell fire, a certain 
amount of gas shell being employed, and at 6.5 a.m. the advance 
began. The 21st and 24th Battalions swept forward, the former followed 
by the pioneer battalion, which protected its right flank as the advance 
progressed. The tanks were late in arriving at the " starting line," and 
consequently the initial stage of the advance was carried out without 
their aid, though later, during the fighting in the village itself, they were 
of the greatest assistance. Machine-gun fire was encountered during the 
advance on Montbrehain until the village was entered. On the north- 
western outskirts of the village one strong point in particular, in a quarry 
which was held by over 100 men of the 241st Division and 40 machine- 
guns, offered a strong resistance, and was only captured by the 24th Bat- 
talion after a fierce struggle.^ The 21st Battalion, keeping touch with 
the right company of the 24th Battalion, pushed forward through Mont- 
brehain assisted by some tanks. It overcame the resistance of many 
machine-gun posts and finally established a line of posts clear of, and to 
the east of, the village. These posts were, however, withdrawn later on 
account of the severity of the enemy's shelling. Meanwhile, touch was 
temporarily lost between the companies of the 24th Battalion in the 
village, but steady progress was made, and touch was maintained with 
the company of the same battalion which was advancing north of the 
village. 

While this fighting was in progress the 2nd Australian Pioneer Bat- 

■ The capture of this quarry was in a large measure due to the courage and leadership of 
Lieut. Ingram, 24th Battalion. See Appendix E, No. 25. 



Pmorsmti pboiotripb jV.f. 9, Ut fau pj(f 18^ 




BEAURE\'OIR and BELLE\'UE FARM from the west. 



Oct 5th] THE CAPTURE OF THE BEAUREVOIR LINE 187 

talion, advancing in support of the right flank of the 21st Battalion, also 
met with considerable opposition. The battalion was accompanied by 
two tanks, which rendered it much assistance. While engaged in pro- 
tecting the right flank of the 21st Battalion, the pioneers were subjected 
to heavy fire from Mannequin Hill and Doon Hill. In spite of this, 
they established a defensive flank south of Montbrehain through Neville's 
Cross, joining up with the IX Corps on the right and with the 21st Battalion 
on the left north-east of the village, and held it all day. Considerable 
assistance was also rendered to the 24th Battalion by a company of the 
pioneers, which had followed it through the village ; realising the 
difficulties that the 24th Battalion was encountering, the company 
commander promptly filled the gap between its right and centre companies. 
The fighting in the village had been severe, and the casualties were con- 
siderable ; consequently, the 18th and 27th Battalions were moved up from 
reserve, the former reinforcing the 21st, and the latter the 24th Battalion. 
By 4 p.m., with their assistance, the whole of Montbrehain was completely 
in our hands. Over 600 unwounded prisoners and 150 machine-guns 
were captured during the day, and of the former the 2nd Australian 
Pioneer Battalion could claim at least 300. These prisoners came from 
ten different regiments, thus again indicating the general state of the 
enemy's disorganisation along the battle front. 

During the night of October 4th the 25th Division had strengthened 

its front by moving up the 74th Brigade into the line on the left of the 

The xm Corps ; the '^^h Brigade, while the 75th Brigade was concentrated in 

capture oi Beaurevoir close support in the vicinity of the Masnieres-Beaurevoir 

by the 25th Division Line. During the night Beaurevoir was bombarded 

intermittently, but, although the houses were considerably knocked about, 

the majority of the cellars were undamaged. 

The attack of the 25th Division was launched at 6 a.m. under a 
powerful artillery barrage, five minutes before that of the Australians 
against Montbrehain. On the right the 21st Manchester, leading the 
attack of the 7th Brigade, and supported by four tanks of the 4th 
Mark V Tank Battalion, advanced through the southern outskirts of the 
village. On the left the 74th Brigade, assisted by four tanks of the 4th 
Mark V Tank Battalion, advanced against BcUevue Farm, Guisancourt 
Farm, and the northern portion of Beaurevoir, with the 9th Yorkshire, 
the 13th Durham Light Infantry, and the 11th Sherwood Foresters in line 
from right to left. Although the thick ground mist restricted observation, 
the attack started well, and good progress was made on the flanks. Beau- 
revoir was entered by the infantry of the 74th Brigade and by two of the 
supporting tanks ; the enemy, however, was holding it in considerable 
strength, and a counter-attack from the north forced the 74th Brigade back 
to their " starting line," with the exception of some men of the 9th 
Yorkshire who held on to Bellevue Farm. At 12 noon Maj.-Gen. Charles 
decided to wait until dusk before renewing the attack, and, meanwhile, 
placed two companies of the l/8th Royal Warwickshire at the disposal 
of the 74th Brigade in order to assist it in the capture of Guisancourt Farm. 
During the afternoon the 75th Brigade moved forward in order to make 
a direct attack on Beaurevoir after dark in coniunction with the 7th 



188 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY [Oct. 5th 

and 74th Brigades, which were to push forward on the flanks towards 
Ponehaux and Guisancourt Farm respectively. 

At 6.30 p.m. the attack was launched and achieved immediate success. 
In the centre the l/5th Gloucestershire and the l/8th Worcestershire of 
the 75th Brigade passed through the 9th Yorkshire and the 13th Durham 
Light Infantry. The 1 /5th Gloucestershire, not waiting for the barrage to 
lift, went right through Beaurevoir, taking the garrison completely by 
surprise, and dug itself in well east of the village. The l/8th Wor- 
cestershire came under heavy machine-gun fire from the railway cutting 
on the west of the village, and its advance was temporarily checked. 
A critical situation was saved by the prompt action of the right platoon 
commander, who worked round the left flank of the enemy with his 
platoon and attacked the defenders of the railway cutting from the rear. 
This enabled the battalion to resume its advance, clear the northern 
half of Beaurevoir, and establish a line clear of the village on the left of 
the l/5th Gloucestershire. On the right the 21st Manchester of the 7th 
Brigade captured the cemetery south-east of Beaurevoir, but was unable 
to reach Ponehaux ; on the left the enemy still held Guisancoiut Farm. 
At 4.10 a.m., however, on the morning of October 6th the farm, together 
with 195 prisoners, was finally secured by the 11th Sherwood Foresters 
and the two companies of the l/8th Royal Warwickshire, owing to the 
initiative of the Commander of the 74th Brigade. This completed the 
difficult task which had been allotted to the 25th Division. Beaurevoir, 
with the three advanced posts of Beaurevoir Mill, Bellevue Farm, and 
Guisancourt Farm, formed a very strong natural position, considerably 
strengthened by wire and machine-gun emplacements. Although very 
much disorganised, the enemy put up a good fight, prisoners being taken 
from four different divisions, the 21st, 21st Reserve, 119th, and 121st. 
The performance of the 25th Division was all the more creditable as it 
had very short notice in which to make its preparations for the attack. 
Perhaps the outstanding feature of the operations was the daylight attack 
of the l/5th Gloucestershire and the l/8th Worcestershire, which finally 
captured Beaurevoir village. 

During the early morning of the 5th the 149th Brigade of the 50th 

Division pushed patrols across the canal at Vendhuile and north of that 

village. These patrols, working in conjunction with 

50th VivU^r north of patrols of the 33rd Division of the V Corps on the left, 

Gouy, and of the 38th found Putney evacuated and reached Basket Wood. 

Division of the V Corps About midday the 38th Division of the V Corps, 

after crossing the tunnel defences of the Hindenburg Line near Bony, 

advanced northwards through Gouy and Le Catelet, and passed through 

the 50th Division near La Pannerie South. Orders were then issued by 

Sir Thomas Morland to the 50th Division to withdraw the 149th and 151st 

Brigades into rest, and to conform to the movement of the 38th Division, 

which had swung eastwards towards Aubencheul-aux-Bois. This was 

done, and by nightfall the 150th Brigade had advanced 500 yards beyond 

Vauxhall Quarry and was in touch with the 38th Division south of 

Aubencheul-aux-Bois. 

The result of the day's fighting had been most satisfactory. 



Oct ©TH] THE CAPTURE OF THE BEAUREVOIR LINE 189 

Although Mannequin Hill and the high ground north of it were not in our 

possession, Montbrehain, Beaurevoir, and Guisancourt Farm had been 

captured, while the V Corps was now rapidly extending 

^ 's^fi'htLf " ^^^ ^^^^^ ^^ attack northwards on the right of the Third 

^* ^ ^ Army. During the day prisoners belonging to ten 

divisions had been captured, including some from a fairly fresh Saxon 

division, the 24th. 

During the night of October 5th the 30th American Division moved 
forward from reserve and relieved the 2nd Australian Division in the 
The reUef of the Montbrehain sector. At 9 a.m. on October 6th the 
Australian Corps by the command of the Australian Corps front passed to 
n American Corps on Gcn. Read, commanding the II American Corps. Sub- 
October 6th sequently all five divisions of the Australian Corps, with 
the exception of some of the artillery which remained up in the line with 
the II American Corps, were concentrated in areas west of Amiens for a 
long period of rest after six eventful months' fighting. The Australian 
Corps had begun to come into the line on the Amiens front at the end of 
March, 1918, and took a prominent part in finally checking the enemy's 
advance on Amiens. Then followed the series of successful minor opera- 
tions which it undertook during April, May, June, and July, and which led 
up to the attack on August 8th. From August 8th— when the Australian 
Corps, together with the Canadian and III Corps, opened the offensive 
which had achieved such remarkable success— until October 5th, it had 
been almost continually attacking. Its advance had covered a distance of 
37 miles, during which 116 towns and villages had been captured. Between 
August 8th and October 5th, the Australian Corps had captured 610 
officers and 22,244 other ranks from 30 German divisions, and 332 guns. 
Time dims many recollections ; but the work of the Australians, their 
individual intelligence, good comradeship, and bravery will always remain 
a vivid memory to those who had the honour and pleasiire of working with 
them. 

During these operations the work of the 5th Brigade, Royal Air Force, 
had been as brilliant as ever. Much of it was achieved under bad weather 
conditions and in face of much stubborn opposition, 
The work o! the Royal especially on October 4th and 5th, on which days 
""^ unusually strong and aggressive German fighting forma- 

tions were sent over the lines. During the week commencing September 
29th, in addition to invaluable contact and artillery patrols, more than 
1,500 offensive flights were carried out ; 31 enemy aeroplanes were 
destroyed and 8 were driven down out of control, while 13 enemy 
observation balloons were brought down in flames ; 3,300 bombs were 
dropped on hostile transport, billets, dumps, railway centres, and head- 
quarters, and upwards of 200,000 machine-gun rounds were fired from the 
air. The whole of this programme, which was carried on by day and night, 
was achieved with the loss of only 24 British machines. 

A review of the The capture by the Fourth, Third, and First 

situation on October British Armies of the Hindenburg Defences on which 

^"^ the enemy had expended so much skill and labour, 

and which he had believed capable of defying any assault, was the 



190 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY [Oct. 6th 

culminating point of the Allied offensive. As stated in Sir Douglas 
Haig's Victory Despatch : 

" The enemy's defence in the last and strongest of his prepared 
positions had been shattered. The whole of the main Hindenburg 
Line passed into our possession, and a wide gap was driven through 
such rear trench systems as had existed behind them. 

" The effect of the victory upon the subsequent course of the 
campaign was decisive. The threat to the enemy's communications 
was now direct and instant, for nothing but the natural obstacles of 
a wooded and well-watered countryside lay between our armies and 
Maubeuge. 

" Great as were the material losses the enemy had suffered, the 
effect of so overwhelming a defeat upon a moral already deteriorated 
was of even larger importance." 

That the enemy had had no intention of relinquishing the Hindenburg 
Line without a desperate struggle is certain. Not only was this proved 
by documents subsequently captured, but by the attitude of the enemy 
during the bitter fighting between September 29th and October 5th. 
Within this period the Germans launched no fewer than thirteen counter- 
attacks, delivered principally against the flanks of the Fourth Army and 
depriving us for a short period of Sequehart, Montbrehain, Gouy, Le 
Catelet, and portions of the Beaurevoir Line. In these counter-attacks 
the enemy employed his reserve divisions freely. It was significant, 
however, that they had without exception been engaged previously on 
several occasions since August 8th. 

The strenuous days between September 30th and October 5th had 
witnessed a prolonged struggle between the Fourth Army and the Second 
and Eighteenth German Armies. Our object had been to widen the gap 
made on September 29th ; theirs had been to narrow it, or, at any rate, 
to close it by retaining possession of the Beaurevoir Line. Thanks 
to the indomitable spirit of the British soldier, the Fourth Army had 
gained the day. The right of the Third Army was now able to cross 
the canal and increase very considerably the front of attack in the next 
phase of the operations. 

By October 6th the enemy's situation was becoming desperate. Not 
only had he failed to prevent important strategical and tactical successes 
being gained by our troops, but he had suffered very heavy losses in men 
and material. During the operations, which included the capture of the 
Hindenburg and Beaurevoir Lines, the Fourth Army had captured 14,664 
prisoners, including 307 officers, and 120 guns. The enemy had employed 
twenty different divisions against us, two of which were engaged twice, 
whilst we had only employed twelve divisions. 

As regards the future, the Fourth Army was still astride the junction 
of the 18th German Army of von Hutier and the 2nd German Army of 
von der Marwitz, hence reserves belonging to both armies could be brought 
against us. These reserves were estimated at fourteen divisions, all of 
which had been previously engaged and were in various stages of exhaus- 
tion. Moreover, no fresh divisions from reserve had been brought against 



■<. 




> 
z 

o 

Z 

o 



< OS 



< 

►J 



a 
w 

X 

pa 
< 

W 

W 
H 
a: 
< 

a 

D 
W 

Q 

W 

z 

< 
> 

Q 



w 

o 
is 



PS 
< 

O 






Oct &rH] THE CAPTURE OF THE BEAUREVOIR LINE 191 

the Fourth Army since September 24th, and it was difficult to see how 
the enemy could reinforce this front by fresh divisions while the Allied 
forces continued to advance on the whole front from the Argonne to 
Flanders. 

What then were the enemy's intentions on the front of the Foiu-th 
Army ? From the information obtained from air photographs and the 
personal reconnaissance of pilots of the 5th Brigade, Royal Air Force, it 
was ascertained that the enemy was not carrying out any work on defence 
lines, other than the digging of a few rifle pits here and there. All aero- 
dromes west of the St. Quentin-Busigny-Cambrai railway had been 
evacuated. The large ammunition dumps at Fresnoy-le-Grand and 
Brancourt-le-Grand had been emptied, and numerous fires and explosions 
had been seen in villages and dumps between the front line and Busigny. 
These signs all tended to indicate an early retirement, and confirmation 
of this was obtained from the examination of prisoners. Also escaped 
British prisoners of war stated that on their way from Landrecies they had 
passed transport and guns, including heavies, moving eastwards, and that 
civilians were being evacuated from Le Cateau and from the areas as far 
back as Landrecies. 

There was, however, the general situation to consider. As a result 
of their failure to hold the Hindenburg defences against the British troops, 
the Germans were compelled to withdraw their forces along the whole 
front from Lens to Armenti^res. In the south, in the vicinity of Rheims 
they were retreating on a wide front, and in Flanders preparations for an 
extensive withdrawal had commenced. All this demanded time, and the 
safety of the German armies in France, therefore, depended on the ability 
of their troops in the centre to check the advance of the First French 
Army and the Foiu-th, Third, and First British Armies for a period long 
enough to enable a general withdrawal to be properly organised. A 
complete collapse in this part of the line could only mean overwhelming 
disaster for all the German Armies, and the enemy, therefore, would have 
to strive his utmost to stem our advance with such resources as remained 
to him. 

Orders were received from General Headquarters on October 5th for 

a vigorous attack on a wide front, to be carried out by the Fourth 

Sir Douglas Haig's ^^^ Third Armies on October 7th, before a new 

orders for the con- defensive position further in rear could be organised 

tinuanceoi the offensive by the Germans, while any success gained was to be 

exploited by the cavalry. 

The date of this attack was shortly afterwards postponed until 
October 8th. 



CHAPTER X 

THE ADVANCE TO LE CATEAU, OCTOBER 6TH TO 16tH 

Maps 2, 12, 13, and 14 

The nature of the country east of the Beaurevoir Line — The objectives for the attack on October 
8th — The role of the cavalry — The allotment of tanks — Artillery action — The disposition of 
troops on the Fourth Army front on October 6th — The events of October 6th and 7th — 
October 8th ; the attack of the IX Corps — The attack of the II American Corps — The attack 
of the XIII Corps — The result of the day's fighting — The orders and objectives for the con- 
tinuance of the advance on October 9th — October 9th ; the attack — The action of the cavalry 
— The capture of Honnechy — Further objectives ordered — The action of the armoured cars— 
The result of the fighting — October 10th ; the advance resumed ; cavalry action — The 
infantry advance — The attacks of the 25th and 66th Divisions on St. Benin and Le Cateau — 
The events of October 11th — The orders from General Headquarters for the continuance of 
the offensive — The preparations for the attack — -The nature of the country ; the Selle — Le 
Cateau — The readjustment of the front — The dispositions of the troops — The objectives — 
Information regarding the encmj — The detailed arrangements for the attack. 

On the Fourth Army front our troops had now reached open country, 

where the enemy had no prepared Hnes of defence, and which bore few 

The nature of the traces of the devastation of war. It consisted of open 

country east of the undulating ground devoid of hedges and free from wire, 

Beanrevoir Line ^j^^ ^^g^g ^gjj suited to the employment of cavalry and 

tanks. The probable points of resistance, until the Selle was reached, were 

the villages, the small scattered woods north of Brancourt-le-Grand and 

Bohain, and the line of the railway running north and south, a short 

distance west of Bohain and Busigny. The villages were all intact, and 

were known to be in most cases still occupied by the civilian population, 

which had for over four years been in the power of the enemy. 

The Selle, on Avhich Le Cateau is situated, was likely to prove the 
most serious obstacle later on. It seemed from the map that it could be 
crossed without much difficulty anywhere from its source near Vaux 
Andigny as far as St. Benin ; between the latter village and Solesmes, how- 
ever, it appeared probable that a crossing could only be effected at the fords 
or by bridges. The river was the obvious line behind which the enemy 
would make his first determined stand and endeavour to reorganise his 
forces. On the southern flank of this position, and south of Vaux Andigny, 
there were two woods of considerable size, Riquerval Wood and Andigny 
Forest. 

On receipt of the orders from General Headquarters on October 5th, 

192 



Sktuh .\o. 9, to /ace page 192. 



Sr. Binln 



=««^9«Qi$ic 




^'r^^t'% 



/rjy/rt/^i- . r. 



Shut Vo.U, „/,„pjp ,02. 








LE CATEAU from the HONNECH^' „ad. 



c 



n 



October Gth] THE ADVANCE TO LE CATEAU 193 

Sir Henry Rawlinson issued his orders for the attack on October 8th. 

Two objectives, known as the first objective and the Une 

'ittack^on o^tobeTsth^ °^ exploitation, were allotted to the IX, II American, 

a c on c er ^^^ XIII Corps, each of which was to attack on a front 

of about 4,000 yards. 

As its first objective, the IX Corps on the right was given Mannequin 
Hill, Beauregard Farm, and the high ground between Fresnoy-le-Grand 
and INIontbrehain. If the First French Army, which was to attack 
simultaneously on the right, succeeded in capturing Fontaine-Uterte and 
Croix-Fonsomme, the IX Corps was to push on and occupy Mericourt, 
while the 5th Cavalry Brigade was to exploit towards Fresnoy-le-Grand 
and Bohain. If the First French Army should be unable to take these 
villages, the right of the IX Corps was not to advance beyond its first 
objective; its left, however, was to keep touch with the II American Corps 
and push on to Brancoucourt. 

The II American Corps in the centre was allotted Brancourt-le-Grand 
and Vaux-le-Pretre as its first objective, after the capture of which, it was 
to exploit towards Brancoucourt and Fremont, and secure the woods and 
copses between those tAvo places. 

The XIII Corps on the left was to seize a line which included Le 
Hamage Farm and Les Marliches Farm as its first objective, joining up 
with the II American Corps on the right on the Roman road from 
Estrees to IMaretz, and on the left with the V Corps of the Third Army, 
which was to captvire the village of Villers Outreaux. Its line of exploita- 
tion included Serain. " Zero " for the attack was to be at 5.10 a.m. on 
the 8th. 

If the attack was successful, the cavalry was to be ready to move in 

the direction of Le Cateau and secure the railway junctions at that place 

and at Busigny. If the opportunity offered, it Avas to 

The role o£ the operate against the flank and rear of the enemy opposing 
the Third and First British Armies and endeavour to cut 
his communications about Valenciennes. In order that no opening might 
be lost the cavalry was to keep close touch with the advancing infantry 
and tanks. It was left to Sir Charles Kavanagh, commanding the Cavalry 
Corps, to decide when to send the cavalry through. 

For the operations one company of whippets of the 6th Tank Bat- 
talion was allotted to the IX Corps. The II American Corps was allotted 
two companies of whippets of the Gth Tank Battalion, 

"^^^ ten£'°* °* ^^^ ^^^ ^^^'^ ^^^ ^^^^* ^^^^^ ^ "^^"^ Battalions ; of the 
latter one battalion was to assist in the attack on Bran- 
court-le-Grand and the other was to remain in corps reserve. With the 
XIII Corps were one company of whippets of the 3rd Tank Battalion 
and the 1st Mark V Tank Battalion ; of these the latter was to be held in 
corps reserve. 

The whippets were to follow closely on the heels of the infantry, 
and, after the protective barrage lifted off the line of the first objective, 
they were to push on independently to the line of exploitation, beyond 
which they were not to proceed. 

The attack was to be launched under cover of a barrage, which was 

c c 



194 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY [October 6th-7th 

to come down at " zero " 200 yards in front of the infantry " starting 
line." The first lift was to be made three minutes after " zero," after 

which the lifts were to be made at three minute intervals 
Artillery action Up to and including the 12th lift ; the barrage was then 

to be lifted every four minutes until the line of the first 
objective was reached. A protective barrage was to be maintained 
for thirty minutes covering the first objective, after which it was to cease ; 
the further advance of the infantry and tanks being covered by specially 
detailed brigades of field artillery. The selection of targets for the heavy 
artillery was left to corps, but, as it was most important that the 
action of the cavalry should not be interfered with by the heavy guns, 
the II American and XIII Corps were each ordered to detail a special 
contact aeroplane, whose sole duty was to warn artillery units by wireless 
of the passage of the cavalry through the infantry. As an additional 
precaution, the headquarters of the leading cavalry brigade was to fire 
a special " golden-rain " signal rocket when the cavalry passed through. 
Moreover, orders were issued that the 14-inch guns should lift off Busigny 
at five hours after " zero," and that at the same time the 9*2-inch guns 
should cease firing, while the fire of the artillery under the command of 
corps was to be confined, as soon as the cavalry had passed through, to 
targets engaged by direct observation or in answer to calls from the air. 
On October 6th the front of the Fourth Army was held as follows : — 
From Chardon Vert to Neville's Cross, just south of Montbrehain, by 

the IX Corps, with the 6th Division, reinforced by the 

troops on the Fourth 139th Brigade of the 46th Division, in line, and with the 

Army front on 46th Division, less the 139th Brigade, and the 5th 

October 6th Cavalry Brigade in support. From Neville's Cross to 

the Torrens Canal by the II American Corps, with the 30th American 

Division in line and the 27th in reserve. From the Torrens Canal to 

a point about 1,000 yards south of Villcrs Outreaux by the XIII Corps, 

with the 25th Division and 50th Division in line, and with the 66th 

Division in support. The Cavalry Corps, consisting of the 1st and 3rd 

Cavalry Divisions, was in reserve near the St. Quentin Canal. 

The two days prior to the attack were occupied in completing the 
preparations, and only a few minor operations were carried out. On 

October 6th the 50th Division, working in co-operation 
The events of October ^yi^j^ ^-j-^g y Corps, captured a portion of the Masnicres- 

6th and 7th -p, • t • v. a. ^o • 4. t^ j 

Beaurevoir Line between Guisancourt larm and 
Aubencheul-aux-Bois, and secured a number of prisoners. On October 
7th the 117th Regiment of the 30th American Division made an advance of 
about 500 yards ; in this operation the Americans captured 150 prisoners 
of the 20th German Division, which was engaged on the Fourth Army 
front for the first time. On the same day a strong counter-attack against 
the French in the Morcourt area gave the enemy possession of some 
ground, which he retained until the following day. 

October 8th ; the 0^1 the front of the IX Corps the attack was to be 

attack of the IX made by the 6th Division, commanded by IVIaj.-Gen, 

^°'P^ Marden, assisted by the 139th Brigade of the 46th 

Division which was attached to it. The 16th and 71st Brigades 




Q 






w 

►J 



Li 

o 
o 
y. 
1- 
a; 
m 

Q 

< 



X 

w 
Pi 
m 
h 
a^ 
o 



October 8th] THE ADVANCE TO LE CATEAU 195 

were in line from right to left, with the 139th Brigade keeping touch 
with the French on the right, and with the 18th Brigade in close support. 

Launched under cover of a heavy barrage and assisted by the whippets, 
the attack met with immediate success, and the first objective was quickly 
gained. The only serious opposition encountered was experienced by the 
16th Brigade from the fire of machine-guns in Mannequin Wood and the 
village of Mericourt. The whippets of the 6th Tank Battalion supporting 
this attack broke down ; the crews made very gallant efforts to repair 
them under fire, but they were all put out of action by hostile artillery. 
By midday Mannequin Hill, Doon Hill, and Beauregard Farm had been 
cajDtured, but an attempt of the 5th Cavalry Brigade at this period to 
break through just south of Brancourt-le-Grand and captiu"e some field guns 
at Jonnecourt Farm was frustrated by the enemy's machine-gun fire. The 
French on the right were held up by machine-gun fire from Cerise Wood. 

After some strenuous bomb fighting in the trenches of the Beaurevoir- 
Fonsomme Line east of Sequehart, the 1st West Yorkshire, which was 
attached to the 16th Brigade, secured Cerise Wood, where three officers 
and 190 other ranks of the 84th German Division surrendered, and shortly 
afterwards the village of Mericourt was rushed by the 16th Brigade. 
After the capture of Cerise Wood the French resumed their advance, and 
by 3.30 p.m. had gained possession of Fontaine-Uterte. At about the 
same time the resistance in Mannequin Wood was overcome by the 1st 
West Yorkshire, five officers and 193 other ranks being taken prisoner. 
By nightfall the IX Corps had reached the line of exploitation on the left, 
but had progressed little beyond the first objective on the right flank, as 
the French had been unable to keep pace with our advance. Over 1,200 
prisoners of the 24th, 34th, 221st, and 241st Divisions and four field guns 
were captured during the day by the IX Corps. 

The attack of the II American Corps was carried out with great dash 

by the 30th American Division with the 59th Brigade, with one battalion 

of the 60th Brigade attached, leading. The principal 

'^American "corps ° organised resistance came from Brancourt-le-Grand, 

which was, however, soon captured with the assistance of 

the 301st American Tank Battalion, and by 2.15 p.m. the attacking troops 

had reached the line of exploitation. In this satisfactory operation the 

Americans captured 30 guns and over 1,500 prisoners of the 20th, 21st, 

208th, and Jagcr Divisions, and the Cyclist Brigade. 

The XIII Corps employed three divisions, the 66th Division having 

come into the line on the evening of October 7th, between the 25th Division 

on the right and the 50th Division on the left. On the 

""Vra ?orps '^' ^'g^t t^^^ "^th Brigade of the 25th Division was to 

attack through Ponchaux, with its centre directed on 

the Serain Farms, and was to maintain connection with the II American 

Corps ; the 74th and 75th Brigades were in reserve. In the centre the 

South African Brigade and the 198th Brigade of the 66th Division were to 

carry out the main attack, the objectives of which included the village 

of Serain ; the 197th Brigade was held in reserve west of Beaurevoir. 

The advance of the left flank of the 66th Division was to be protected by 

the 151st Brigade of the 50th Division. 



196 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY [October 8th 

As the V Corps had arranged to attack the village of 
Villers Outreavix at 1 a.m., four hours and ten minutes before the 
Fourth Army main attack was to be launched, the 50th Division was 
ordered to attack Villers Farm, a position just south-Avest of Villers 
Outreaux, from which the enemy coiild enfilade the Masnieres-Beaurevoir 
Line both to the north and south, simultaneously with the V Corps. 
The 1st King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry successfully accomplished this 
task, but the enemy's artillery retaliation inflicted hea^'y casualties on 
the 198th and South African Brigades while they were forming up for the 
main attack. In spite of this, thanks to the steadiness and discipline of 
the troops, the assembly was completed punctually and without 
confusion. 

The attack was delivered with great vigour and met with immediate 
success. Some resistance at Ponchaux was quickly overcome, and the 
first objective was soon gained. The whippet tanks then pushed on 
towards the exploitation line, but most of them were put ovit of action 
by shell or anti-tank rifle fire ; an attempt by the 2nd Cavalry Brigade 
to break through was also frustrated south-west of Maretz by hostile 
machine-gun fire. The infantry, meanwhile, made rapid progress, and 
Serain was captured with the assistance of the 1st Tank Battalion. The 
exploitation line was reached at 11 a.m., except on the left where the 
advance of the 198th Brigade was enfiladed by field and machine-gun 
fire from Villers Outreaux, which was not captured by the V Corps until 
later. After the captiu-e of this village the left flank of the XIII Corps 
also reached the line of exploitation without any difficulty. 

Sir Thomas Morland now issued orders for the 25th and 66th Divisions 
to establish themselves securely on the exploitation line and to 
send forward patrols to Elincourt, Avelu, and Pinon Wood, which 
they were to occupy if not strongly held by the enemy. No attempt, 
however, was to be made to captvire them if this would entail heavy 
fighting ; the 50th Division was at the same time ordered to concentrate 
north-east of Gouy in corps reserve. 

At nightfall the line held by the XIII Corps ran just clear of the 
eastern outskirts of Premont and Serain to the Elincourt-lNIalincourt 
road ; over 1,200 prisoners and some guns had been captured during the day. 

The attack had been an unqualified success. All objectives on the 

whole army front had been secured, and over 4,000 prisoners and 56 guns 

had been taken. Though the enemy still retained 

^ay'T^hHng''^ sufficient cohesion to prevent the cavalry breaking 

through, his disorganisation was pronounced. 

Prisoners were captured from seventy-three different battalions 

of thirty regiments of fifteen divisions, in addition to artillery 

and machine-gun units of two other divisions and companies of the 2nd 

Cyclist Brigade. 1 During the afternoon the roads converging on Le 

> The divisions encountered were the 2nd Guard, 8th, 20th, 21st, 21st Reserve, 24th, 30th, 
34th, 38th, 84th, 119th, 121st, 204th, 208th, 221st (machine-gun units only), 241st (artillery only), 
Jager, and 2nd Cyclist Brigade. Of these divisions the enemy had reinforced his line with the 
Jager, 204th, 208th, and the 2nd Cyclist Brigade, the 204th having just arrived from Lorraine, 
while the 2nd Cj clist Brigade was being employed for the first time, since its arrival from Russia 
a few months previously. 



October 8TH-9THJ THE ADVANCE TO LE CATEAU 197 

Cateau were blocked with transport, and full advantage of this was taken 
by our airmen. Between 5.30 p.m. and midnight the German airmen 
made a most determined bombing attack against the area east of Beau- 
revoir on both sides of the main Estrees-Le Cateau road, in which the 1st 
and 3rd Cavalry Divisions were located. The Germans were evidently 
very nervous lest our cavalry should break through, and tried this means 
of preventing it. A.lthough the bombing was extremely violent while it 
lasted our casualties from it were luckily light. 

Sir Henrj^ Rawlinson still hoped that, if our victory were followed 

up at once, the cavalry might be given the opportunity, denied 

to them on the 8th, of completing the rout of 

tive3°£or'thrcontou°" the enemy. Orders were accordingly issued for 

ance of the advance the offensive to be resumed at 5.20 a.m. on the 9th, 

on October 9tii ^^ conjunction with an advance of the Third British 

and First French Armies. 

The IX Corps was allotted the line of the railway between Fresnoy- 
le-Grand and Bohain as its first objective, including the village of Fresnoy- 
le-Grand ; Bohain, a town of considerable size and importance, was to 
be its second objective. The first objective given to the II American 
Corps was the line of the railway between Bohain and Busigny Station, 
while the villages of Becquigny and Busigny were its second objective. 
Maretz was to be the first objective of the XIII Corps, and its second 
objective included the villages of Honnechy and Maurois. The distance 
to be covered by the XIII Corps was considerably greater than that to 
be covered by the other two corps ; this was due to the long flank which 
the IX Corps was compelled to maintain in consequence of the difficulty 
experienced by the French in advancing north-east of St. Quentin. The 
5th iMark V tank Battalion was allotted to the IX Corps, the 4th and 
301st American ^Mark V Tank Battalions and two companies of whippets 
to the II American Corps, and the 1st Mark V Tank Battalion and one 
company of whippets to the XIII Corps. The role of the cavalry was the 
same as for October 8th, and it was to be ready to seize any opportunity 
of breaking through. 

At 5.20 a.m. on October 9th the attack was resumed along the whole 

front. On the right the IX Corps, with the 46th and 6th Divisions in 

the line,i had little difficulty in securing Fresnoy-le- 

October9th; the Grand and Johnecourt Farm. The enemy retreated 

rapidly before oiu- advance, and by 3 p.m. 

the line of the railway, which formed the first objective, was secured. 

So vigorous was the advance of our troops that the enemy's resistance 

broke down, and the 9th Norfolk of the 6th Division captured Bohain 

without difficulty towards evening.^ On ovir right the French secvured 

Croix-Fonsomme. 

The II American Corps, with the 59th Brigade of the 30th 
Division leading, experienced only slight opposition from hostile rear- 

1 The 46th Division took over the right sector of the IX Corps front from the 6th Division on 
the night of the 8th. The 1st Division also moved further forward. 

' Four thousand five hundred French inhabitants were liberated in this town, some of whom 
had been three days without food. 



198 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY [October 9th 

guards, and, advancing rapidly, occupied the villages of Becquigny and 
Busigny.^ 

Equal success attended the advance further north, where the XIII 
Corps advanced with the 25th Division on the right and the 66th on the 
Jeft. Maretz was captured before 7 a.m. by the 75th Brigade of the 
25th Division and the 199th Brigade of the 66th Division, and Elincourt 
and Pinon Wood by the 198th Brigade. Having secured jNIaretz, the 
advance was continued by the 25th Division on a two-brigade front, the 
74th Brigade coming into line on the right of the 75th Brigade, while in 
the 66th Division the South African Brigade " leap-frogged " the 198th 
and 199th Brigades. 

It was not until 9 a.m. that the enemy made any show of resistance ; 
the advance of the 25th Division Avas then checked in front of the 
railway south-west of Honnechy , and a little later that of the 66th Division 
on the outskirts of Gattigny Wood. 

Throughout the advance the cavalry had kept in close touch with 

the infantry. The 3rd Cavalry Division (the 6th, 7th, and Canadian 

Brigades) followed up closely, while the 1st Cavalry 

^® cavaky"* ^^^ Division was in reserve, but ready to move forward at 

once, as the rapid retirement of the enemy in front of 

our advance seemed likely to offer an opportunity for their employment. 

At 9.30 a.m. the 3rd Cavalry Division received word that the XIII 
Corps advance had been checked by machine-gun fire from the railway 
south-west of Honnechy. Thereupon a squadron of the 6th Cavalry 
Brigade went forward to Busigny and endeavoured to turn the position 
from the south, but this attempt had to be abandoned on account of the 
wired enclosures. Meantime the Canadian Cavalry Brigade, moving north 
of the main Le Cateau road, found the infantry held up by machine-gun 
fire from the western edge of Gattigny Wood and from Clary village. At 
11 a.m. the Fort Garry Horse made a very dashing attack on the western 
edge of Gattigny Wood, and not only gained a footing in the wood, but 
passed through portions of it ; this enabled the infantry to resume their 
advance. At the same time Lord Strathcona's Horse secured a small copse 
south-east of Clary, and, pushing forward, occupied Mont-aux-Villes Wood 
midway between Clary and Bertry. In these operations the Canadian 
Cavalry Brigade captured 230 prisoners of the 8th German Division, 
two field guns, and 40 machine-guns. 

Meantime, the enemy clung tenaciously to the line of the railway south- 
west of Honnechy. Shortly before noon, however, more artillery arrived, 
and arrangements were made for the railwav and village 
'^Ho^Me*^? °* ^^ ^^ attacked by the 25th Division under cover of a 
barrage. This attack was arranged by Maj.-Gen. 
Charles in co-operation with Maj.-Gen. Harman, commanding the Third 
Cavalry Division, who ordered the 6th Cavalry Brigade (3rd Dragoon 
Guards, 1st Royal Dragoons, and 10th Hussars) to encircle the village,^ 

' On reaching the first objective, the 60th Brigade " leap-frogged " the 59th Brigade and 
captured the second objective — Becquigny and Busigny. 

2 While the 10th Hussars were moving into position for the attack, they were observed by 
hostile aircraft and suffered considerable casualties from bombs and machine-gun fire. 



October 9th] THE ADVANCE TO LE CATEAU 199 

while the Canadian Cavalry Brigade advanced north of Maurois with a 
view to seizing the high ground north-east of that village. 

The concerted attack against Honnechy began at 2 p.m., and within 
forty minutes the village and the ground to the east of it were captured. 
Further north the Canadian Cavalry Brigade, after securing 42 prisoners 
and 5 machine-guns between Clary and Bertry, pushed forward north of 
Maurois. 

In consequence of the slight opposition encountered by the troops 

during the morning, Sir Henry Rawlinson issued further orders about 

noon on the 9th. The IX Corps was ordered to secure 

^'^^rieS*''^''' the high ground north and south of Andigny-les-Fermes ; 

the II American Corps was to push on to Molain, 

St. Souplet, and St. Benin, and seize the crossings over the Selle at these 

places ; the XIII Corps was ordered to capture Le Cateau. The cavalry 

was to advance as rapidly as possible on Le Cateau, and then carry out the 

remainder of the mission allotted to it for October 8th. 

The IX and II American Corps did not gain much ground beyond 
their original final objective for the 9th. 

In compliance with their instructions, the Canadian Cavalry Brigade 
moved forward, and by the evening had taken Troisvilles and occupied the 
high ground north-west of Le Cateau between Montay and Rambourlieux 
Farm. The 6th Cavalry Brigade, however, was unable to get to Le Cateau, 
as the advance was checked by strong opposition from the line St. Souplet- 
Reumont, which was occupied by parties of the 2nd Cyclist Brigade and 
by one of the newly arrived regiments of the 204th Division from Lor- 
raine. The 7th Cavalry Brigade then advanced, driving the enemy from 
Reumont, and filled the gap between the 6th Cavalry Brigade south-east 
of Reumont and the Canadian Cavalry Brigade on the high ground over- 
looking Le Cateau. The Third Cavalry Division thus held a line from 
south-east of Reumont to Rambourlieux Farm along the high ground 
overlooking the Selle just west of Le Cateau, Montay, and Neuvilly, its left 
being thrown back along the road running from Neuvilly to Troisvilles. 
Late in the evening the infantry of the 66th Division arrived and 
relieved the cavalry, which bivouacked close in the rear of the positions 
they had captured. In the course of its operations the 3rd Cavalry 
Division had captured 450 prisoners, 10 guns, and between 50 and 60 
machine-guns, but its experiences showed that the enemy's resistance was 
not yet completely broken, as it had not been possible to make any 
advance except by vigorous action and hard fighting. 

During the operations very effective assistance was given both to the 

infantry and cavalry by the armoured cars of the 17th Armoured Car 

Battalion. Seven cars were allotted to the 3rd Cavalry 

^mou°eS t^^ Division, of which three cars were detailed to the 6th 

and four to the 7th Cavalry Brigade ; two cars were 

kept in corps reserve. The cars accompanying the 6th Cavalry Brigade 

were ordered at 9 a.m. to go forward and report on the situation at Maretz. 

One car broke its axle, but the other two proceeded to Maretz, where they 

were informed that our infantry and cavalry were checked in front of 

Gattigny Wood. The cars proceeded thither at once and engaged a party 



200 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY [October 9th-ioth 

of about 30 Germans with machine-guns near the cross roads immedi- 
ately south of the wood ; these they scattered, kiUing four of the gunners 
and capturing 10 machine-guns. The cars then went towards Honnechy 
where, in conjunction with some men of the South African Brigade, 
they attacked the enemy in the railway cutting and in the 
wood immediately west of the point where the railway crosses the 
Roman road. The cars then pushed on to Maurois, where the bridge 
over the railway west of the village was blown up after one of the cars had 
crossed it. This car engaged parties of the enemy in Maurois and Honnechy, 
and, near Honnechy Station, surprised and put to flight a guard on the 
bridge, which it was preparing to demolish. Then, after proceeding to 
Busigny and killing five out of a party of twenty Germans, who were 
going up the road with four trench mortars, it was rejoined by the car 
which had been cut off by the destruction of the bridge at Maurois, and 
returned to report. ^ Although the four cars with the 7th Cavalry Brigade 
did not have such an adventurous career, they gave effective help to the 
3rd Dragoon Guards in the attack on Honnechy. 

As a result of the day's fighting all the original objectives and, in 

addition, a considerable amount of ground opposite the northern flank of 

the army had been secured. Fresnoy-le-Grand, Bohain, 

^« figig^ *^^ Becquigny, Busigny Wood, Busigny, Proyart Wood, 

Escaufort, Reumont, and Troisvilles had all been 

occupied, while our outposts were in advance of these places. The enemy 

held Riquerval Wood, Vaux-Andigny, and La Haie Menneresse, and, further 

north, a line from St. Souplet to St. Benin. Our losses had been small. 

The further objectives which Sir Henry Rawlinson had ordered to be 
taken during the day had, however, not been secured. The advance was, 
therefore, ordered to be resumed at 5.30 a.m. on the 10th in order to gain 
these objectives ; in addition, the XIII and II American Corps were to 
push strong infantry patrols across the Selle in order to cover the passage 
of our troops across that river. 

The morning was dull with mist and rain which prevented any obser- 
vation of the enemy's movements. At 6 a.m. the 3rd Cavalry Division, 
October 10th ; the with the 1st Cavalry Division following behind it, led 
advance resumed ; the advance ; heavy hostile shell and machine-gun fire, 

cavalry action however, from the line of the Selle between Le Cateau 
and Neuvilly, inflicted considerable casualties, and the advance of the 
cavalry was checked. Although our artillery opened fire and the armoui'ed 
cars moved forward in support, it was found necessary to withdraw the 
7th Cavalry Brigade out of observation behind the ridges west of the Selle. 
As the result of a reconnaissance, an advance in the direction of Briastre 
was also deemed inadvisable, that village and Viesly being both found 
to be strongly held by the Germans. The resistance of the enemy had now 
obviously become too strong to be overcome by cavalry action, and, after 
the arrival of the infantry, the Army Commander ordered the withdrawal 
of the whole of the Cavalry Corps.^ This brought the action of the 

1 It fired 2,500 rounds from its machine-guns during this run. 

^ During these three days' operations the cavalry captured over 500 prisoners, 10 guns, and 
60 machine-guns, while their casualties amounted to 7 officers and 77 other ranks killed and 41 
officers and 479 other ranks wounded or missing. 




a: 

» 

a 



October lOTHj THE ADVANCE TO LE CATEAU 201 

cavalry to an end for the time being. Though it had not found the 
resistance of the enemy svifficiently broken to permit of far-reaching 
operations in the vicinity of Valenciennes, it had given most effective 
assistance to the infantry. 

Meanwhile, at 5.30 a.m. the infantry advanced close behind the cavalry. 

On the right on the IX Corps front, the 46th and 6th Divisions advanced 

each with one infantry brigade as advance guard. In 

The infantry advance addition to field artillery, each division was also supported 

by a mobile brigade of heavy artillery.^ Although 

for the first 2,000 yards the troops made rapid headway, the enemy's 

resistance increased later, and by 12 noon the advance was definitely checked 

in front of the western edge of Riquerval Wood. This wood was watched 

by the 46th Division, while the 6th Division on the left gained touch 

with the Americans immediately south of Vaux-Andigny. 

In the centre the 30th American Division again led the advance of 
the II American Corps, with the 120th and 119th Regiments of the 60th 
Brigade in line. The Americans captured the western outskirts of Vaux- 
Andigny, La Haie Menneresse, and St. Souplet after some fighting. 
Serious resistance was encountered, however, by the troops of the 
60th Brigade, when they reached the west bank of the Selle, and vigorous 
machine-gun fire from the eastern bank of the river brought the advance 
to a standstill. 

On the left the XIII Corps also made rapid progress until the slopes 

running down into the valley of the Selle were reached. At 11 a.m. the 

The attacks of the 25th ~^^^ Division, with the 74th and Toth Brigades leading, 

and 66th Divisions on reached the high ground north-west of St. Benin, when it 

St. Benin and Le came undcr heavy fire from the village, which stands on 

Catcau ^ commanding knoll, and from the railway embankment 

between St. Benin and Le Cateau. The 25th Division then arranged to 

attack St. Benin, and at 2.40 p.m. the village was carried by the 74th 

Brigade with great dash, and the enemy was driven across the Selle. No 

further progress by the division was, however, possible, partly because the 

bridges over the Selle had all been destroyed, but chiefly owing to the 

heavy machine-gun fire from the railway on the east bank of the river, 

which appeared to be strongly held. 

Further north the 66th Division had by noon secured the spur im- 
mediately west of Le Catcau, and patrols were sent forward into the 
western outskirts of the town, the 198th and 199th Brigades, however, which 
were leading, were considerably harassed by artillery fire fi'om the high 
ground south-west of Forest. Arrangements were then made between 
the 66th and 25th Divisions for a concerted attack on the high ground 
immediately east of Le Cateau and the spur south-west of Forest ; but, 
as it was found impossible for the 25th Division to complete its arrange- 
ment*, in time, the attack was carried out independently by the 66th 
Division. The assault was delivered at 5.30 p.m. by the 5th Connaught 
Rangers on the right and the ISth King's Liverpool on the left. The former 
battalion rushed the town with great gallantry, and a considerable number 

* The mobile brigade of heavy artillery consisted of two 60-pounder and two 6-inch howitzer 
batteries. 

D D 



] 



202 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY [October iothHth 

of men of the 5th Connaught Rangers succeeded in establishing themselves 
in the deep railway cutting, which runs in a gentle curve round the 
eastern outskirts of the town. The latter battalion reached Montay, but 
found the banks of the Selle wired and was unable to cross the stream. As 
the 5th Connaught Rangers had both its flanks exposed, it was withdrawn 
during the night to the western portion of Le Cateau, and held the line 
of the Selle where it passes through the town. During the night St. 
Benin was taken over by the II American Corps. 

Considerable progress had been made by the Fourth Army on the 
10th, and numerous villages had been captured ; ^ with the exception of a 
few posts on the western bank the enemy had been driven across the Selle. 
The enemy's resistance, however, had been strong enough to prevent ovir 
troops from securing all their objectives, and corps were accordingly 
instructed to organise attacks with a view to securing those still 
uncaptured ; in the case of the IX Corps this meant Andigny-les-Fermes, 
and in that of the II American and XIII Corps the high ground east of 
the Selle which covered the passages over the river. 

On no part of the front was any substantial advance made on the 

11th. On the IX Corps front the 46th Division effected a lodgement in 

Riquerval Wood, but failed to penetrate it, while the 

o^Lberllth ^^^ Division, after advancing about 1,500 yards towards 

the Andigny-les-Fermes-Bellevue ridge, could make no 
fm'ther progress. Further north the Americans and the XIII Corps were 
checked by heavy shell fire, and by rifle and machine-gun fire from the 
eastern bank of the Selle ; the 118th American Regiment, however, com- 
pleted the capture of Vaux-Andigny and La Haie Menneresse. In Le Cateau 
prisoners of the 17th Reserve Division were captured, and it was therefore 
clear that the enemy had reinforced this portion of their front with fresh 
troops. The result of the day's fighting proved conclusively that the Germans 
meant to make a stand behind the Selle ; moreover, their artillery showed 
increased activity and seemed to be organised for a stubborn defence. 

On the right of the Fourth Army the First French Army had been 
unable to advance beyond Seboncourt, while the Third British Army had 
reached a line rimning from the high ground overlooking Neuvilly and 
Briastre on the Selle, due west to Quievy, and thence northwards to St. 
Hilaire-les-Cambrai and St. Aubert, all of which villages were in the 
hands of the enemy. 

The exact dispositions of the enemy were uncertain, and the dull, 
misty weather of the preceding few days had made reconnaissance by 
aircraft very difficult. The task of locating the enemy's line had, there- 
fore, to be undertaken chiefly by infantry patrols, whose work was rendered 
the more arduous by the fact that every movement was under direct 
observation from the high ground beyond the Selle. The results of the air 
and infantry reconnaissances showed that the enemy was holding trenches 
south of Vaux-Andigny and west of Molain, that between Molain and 
St. Benin new trenches had been dug east of the river, that from opposite St. 
Benin to Le Cateau Station the enemy held the line of the railway 
running immediately east of the Selle, and that various parts of the trench 

1 Between the Hindenburg Line and the Selle 12,088 French inhabitants had been liberated. 




< 



'X, 

s 

o 






o 
u 



73 
Z 



z 



October iiTH] THE ADVANCE TO LE CATEAU 203 

lines had been wired. It was evident that the position was too strong to 
be rushed, and that it could only be taken by an organised attack, 
adequately supported by artillery. 

It was important to organise a general attack without any delay. 

On October 11th, therefore, the Commander-in-Chief, after a conference 

_ , . with the Army Commanders, issued orders for the 

xb6 orders itoiq • 

General Headquarters offensive to be resumed on a large scale. The Fourth 
for the continuance of Army was to establish itself on the general line 
the offensive Wassigny-Le Cateau, and, in co-operation with the 
First French Army, was to push forward strong advance guards to the 
line of the Sambre and Oise Canal. The Third Army was to establish 
itself on the line of the Selle and secure the passages across that river, 
while the First Army was to protect the left flank of the Third Army. 
The Cavalry Corps was to be again placed under the direct orders of General 
Headquarters, and was to be held in readiness to pursue vigorously in 
the general direction of Mons, should the enemy carry out a fiirther 
retirement. 

The IX, II American, and XIII Corps were accordingly ordered to be 
ready to carry out a concerted attack on October 14th or loth, and, in the 
meanwhile, to push forward as much artillery as the difficulties of ammuni- 
tion supply would permit of being employed. Every effort was also to 
be made to ascertain the enemy's exact dispositions, and to establish a 
suitable " starting line " for the infantry prior to the attack. The date 
of the attack was postponed subsequently until October 17th, 
on account of the enormous difficulties experienced with regard to the 
bringing up of ammunition and supplies. Between the 8th and 11th of 
October the Fourth Army had covered an average distance of ten and a 
half miles on a front of seven and a half miles, while the XIII Corps had 
advanced some thirteen or fourteen miles, and the only main line of 
railway for supply ran through St. Quentin, Bohain, and Busigny. This 
line, which had to serve both the Fourth Army and the northern corps of 
the First French Army, had been considerably damaged by the enemy. 
Railway bridges had been demolished and craters blown in the line, and, 
what was still more difficult to deal with, a large number of delay action 
mines had been scattered along the permanent way. For at least a 
month these mines exploded at varying intervals, causing considerable 
anxiety to those responsible for supplying the army with food and 
ammunition. 

The interval between October 11th and 17th was spent in complet- 
ing the preparations for the attack. No change in the dispositions of 
the IX Corps was found nccessarv ; in the centre the 
■^^ P^f X"r *°' 27th American Division relieved the 30th American 
Division ; in the XIII Corps the 50th Division, 
which had just received strong reinforcements to replace the casualties 
suffered in the heavy fighting at Gouy and Le Catelet, relieved the 25th 
Division on October 11th. Only a small number of tanks was available 
for the operation, as it was found necessary to withdraw the 3rd Tank 
Brigade Headquarters and the 3rd and 4th Tank Battalions to refit. The 
5th and 1st Mark V Tank Battalions were allotted to the IX and XIII 



204 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY [October hth-ioth 

Corps respectively ; the 301st American Mark V Tank Battalion was to 
co-operate with the American Corps ; the 6th Whippet Battalion and 10th 
and 16th Mark V Tank Battalions were held in army reserve. The whole 
of the cavalry was moved fm-ther back, except the 5th Cavalry Brigade, 
which was split up, the 12th Lancers being thenceforward attached to the 
XIII Corps, and the Royal Scots Greys and 20th Hussars to the IX Corps 
and II American Corps respectively. ^ 

Artillery was brought up as rapidly as the supply of ammunition 
permitted, and wire-cutting, counter-battery work, and the bombardment 
of important localities were carried on from the 12th onwards. All the 
enemy's communications, roads, and approaches were searched by artillery 
fire, while 6-inch guns, placed well forward, shelled the crossings over the 
Sambre and Oise Canal, the approaches to the canal at Oisy, Catillon, 
and Landrecies, and the approaches to others of the more important 
villages. 

A German map was captured on October 13th, which indicated that 
the enemy had intended to construct certain lines of defence, on to which 
he was to have retired on October 18th. These positions were called 
Hermann Stellung I and II. Hermann Stcllung I was to have consisted 
of a line east of the Selle from St. Souplet to Le Catcau ; 
Hermann Stellung II was to have been constructed east of the Sambre 
and Oise Canal. A continuation of these lines, north of Le Cateau, was 
shown on a similar map captured by the Third Army about the same 
date. 

On October 14th the weather cleared sufficiently for air reconnaissance, 
and nearly the whole country as far as Maubeuge was reconnoitred and 
photographed. The air photographs revealed the non-existence of either 
of the Hermann lines, except for certain lengths of trenches, protected in 
places by wire, between Vaux-Andigny and Le Cateau. A number of 
rifle pits in pairs on the high ground separating the Selle and the Sambre 
and Oise Canal were also shown. 

The chief obstacle to the advance of the Fourth Army was the Selle. 

The valley of the river is bounded on either side by slopes which rise 

steeply to undulating country some 200 feet above the 

n^nf,?'"il»°^!n! level of the stream. But, while the gentle and rolling 
country ; the Selle , . . i j. <? xu • j • j i? 

slopes to the west oi the river are devoid or cover or 
obstruction, those to the east are more abrupt in nature, and the country 
soon becomes very enclosed owing to the numerous orchards and grass 
fields, bounded by thick hedges, which restrict the view and make movement 
difficult. The river itself, between St. Souplet and Le Cateau, is under 
normal conditions from fifteen to eighteen feet wide and three to four 
feet deep, and runs through water meadows extending some 100 to 200 
yards on either bank. Where it passes through the western edge of Le 
Cateau the banks are bricked up, the span being about twenty feet. A 
topographical feature of special importance, as affecting the operations, 
was the high spur running in a south-westerly direction from Forest 
towards Montay, from which excellent observation could be obtained up 

' ^\Tien the II American Corps was withdrawn after the Battle of the Selle, the 20th Hussars 
were also attached to the IX Corps. 




o 

X 



c 




W 

P, 
D 
O 

h 

fa 
O 






O 
Si 

w 

I 
t- 

o 



< 

W 
t/J 

tl 
X 
h 



r, V 



■%K 



October 11TH-16TH] THE ADVANCE TO LE CATEAU 205 

the valley of the river and over the plateau east of it, and from which 
enfilade fire could be brought to bear on any troops attacking across the 
river. ^ 

Le Cateau itself, through which the Selle runs, was a provincial town 
of some 10,500 inhabitants and contained several large factories. The 
houses were solidly built, and deep cellars provided 
Le Cateau excellent shelter against laombardment. The railway 

embankment and cutting, east of the town, commanded 
all the exits and formed a natural position of exceptional strength. During 
the German occupation, the railway station had been largely used for the 
detrainmcnt of troops, and numerous sidings had been constructed covering 
an area of some 200 yards wide and 500 yards in length. On the eastern 
side the yard was bounded by a bank 30 feet high, and the area was sur- 
rounded by goods sheds, factories, and other buildings strongly constructed 
and easily adaptable for defence. There was a mound some 30 feet high, 
resembling the spoil heap of a coal mine, about fifty yards east of the bank 
which bounded the goods yard, from which an exceptional command to 
the south was obtainable. This mound was surrounded by trees, and 
was thus almost hidden by their foliage from observation from the western 
bank of the Selle. 

Certain difficulties faced the IX Corps with regard to its arrangements 

for the attack on the Bellevue spvir. This spur ran in a north-easterly 

The readjustment of direction from Andigny-les-Fermes towards Belle-%'ue 

the iront Farm. The configm'ation of the ground made it 

(see Maps 13 and 14) inadvisable to attack this spur from the west, and Sir 

Walter Braithwaite decided to do so from the north-west. This 

necessitated a rearrangement of the boundary between the IX Corps and 

the II American Corps, in order to provide depth for the attacking troops 

to form up in. On the night of October 14th, therefore, the IX Corps 

took over the village of Vaux-Andigny from the II American Corps, 

thus extending its front by 1,200 yards. 

On the XIII Corps front careful and repeated reconnaissance of the 
Selle south of Le Cateau disclosed the fact that, owing to recent heavy 
rains, combined with the damming of the stream by the enemy at St. 
Crepin, St. Benin, and at the southern exit of Le Cateau, the flooded area 
was rapidly extending, and the river itself was increasing considerably in 
depth. It was found that at no place on the front of the 50th Division 
was a crossing practicable without elaborate bridging operations, which 
would have had to be undertaken under close range machine-gun fire 
from the opposite bank. Further south, however, in the neighbourhood 
of St. Souplet the stream was much narrower, and on the front of the II 
American Corps presented no serious obstacle. In order, therefore, to 
enable the 50th Division to attack south of Le Cateau, Sir Henry Rawlinson 
arranged that the front of the XIII Corps should be extended some 2,000 
yards southwards, including on the extreme south a stretch of about 
500 yards of river, the crossing of which, though difficult, was not imprac- 
ticable. 

1 It was on this high ground that the Germans placed the artillery, which caused such heavy 
casualties to the artillery of our II Corps, during the Battle of Le Cateau in August, 1914. 



206 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARIMY [October iith-igth 

The IX Corps, after taking over the extra ground from the Americans, 
held a front of 7,000 yards, from a point on the Bohain-Aisonville road just 
^ . south of Riquerval Wood to Vaux-Andigny inclusive. 

The a^positaons of the ^he forward boundary with the French ran in a north- 
easterly direction through the centre of the Andigny 
Forest and midway between the hamlets of Blocus d'en Haut and Blocus 
d'en Bas, the village of Mennevret being wholly in the French area. 
The II American Corps held some 4,000 yards of front from Vaux- 
Andigny exclusive to St. Souplet inclusive, while the frontage of the XIII 
Corps extended thence for 8,000 yards to Montay. It was only possible, 
however, for the XIII Corps to attack along certain portions of this front. 

The objectives given to the corps were ambitious and comprised the 

capture of the whole of the ground lying between the Selle and the Sambre 

and Oise Canal, bounded on the south by the boundary 

The objectives with the French, and on the north by the Richemont 

river and the Bazuel-Catillon road, along which a 

defensive flank facing north-east was to be estabhshed. Le Cateau 

itself was included in the objectives. 

In all, four objectives were given. The first included Andigny-les- 
Fernies arid the whole of the Bellevue spur, the villages of Molain, St. 
Martin Rivere, and St. Souplet, and an advance of some 2,000 yards east 
of the river between Molain and Le Cateau. The second objective in- 
cluded the villages of La Vallee Mulatre and Arbre Guernon, Jonc de Mer 
Farm, La Roux Farm, and the toAvn of Le Cateau, that is to say a further 
advance of some 1,500-2,000 yards. The third objective entailed an 
advance of 2,500-3,000 yards,' and included the villages of Wassigny, 
Mazinghien, and Bazuel. Finally, if all went well, the troops were to try 
to reach the Sambre and Oise Canal between La Laurette and Catillon. 
The southern flank of the army was to be protected by the advance of 
the First French Army. 

As in the case of previous attacks, it was not expected that the troops 
would be able to reach the furthest objective on the first day, but, in view 
of the demoralisation of the enemy, it was felt that the resistance might 
collapse at any moment, and that it was essential that every effort should 
be made to exploit any initial advantage gained to the utmost physical 
power of the men. 

Our information as regards the enemy, though not as complete as on 

some previous occasions immediately prior to an attack, was favourable 

^ . , . to a bold and ambitious plan. The fine weather on 

Te enS October 14th had been taken full advantage of, and air 

reconnaissance had shown that big changes in the 
organisation of the rear areas had taken place, which foreshadowed a 
further retirement. A score of new aerodromes had sprung up, the 
chief groups being those north of Bavai and Maubeuge. A number of 
hospitals had been erected at Maubeuge and near the important railway 
junction of Aulnoye. Moreover, a number of footbridges had been thrown 
over the Sambre and Oise Canal, on which all barge traffic south of Lan- 
drecies had ceased. 

The enemy's power of resistance was not expected to be great. The 



October ISTH-l&TH] THE ADVANCE TO LE CATEAU 207 

pause of six days had undoubtedly given him a short breathing space in 
which to make some re-organisation in his order of battle. Owing, how- 
ever, to the distance which separated the forces and to the presence of the 
Selle between the opposing lines, it had been difRcult^^to secure prisoners, 
and OUT information, therefore, as to the number of divisions which were 
likely to oppose us on the 17th, was incomplete. It was estimated that 
we should be confronted by four comparatively fresh divisions and two 
exhausted ones. It was known that the Alpine Corps had been sent to 
Serbia, owing to the unconditional surrender of Bulgaria and the advance 
of the Allies in Macedonia, and that on the whole of the western front the 
Germans only had six fresh divisions at their disposal to meet all eventu- 
alities. It was probable, therefore, that the Second and Eighteenth 
Armies opposed to us would have to rely on their own resources for reserves ; 
this meant twelve exhausted divisions of which only one had had any 
real rest. 

There were two excellent reasons, on the other hand, why the enemy 
must make every possible endeavour to check our further advance. He 
must if possible prevent us from coming within artillery range of the 
railway junction at Aulnoye, the destruction of which by our guns would 
effectively sever his main lateral line of communication between Sedan 
and Lille. He must also gain time for carrying out the retirement of his 
troops in the Lens and Laon areas, in both of which a retreat on a large 
scale had now commenced, Laon having been occupied by the French 
on October 13th. 

It was clearly impossible for the tanks to render any assistance against 
the hostile trenches and wire in the early stages of the attack, and the 
enemy's positions were, therefore, subjected to a heavy 
^nts*to^the^"ttack preliminary bombardment of forty-eight hours, which 
commenced at 8 a.m. on October 15th. By dint of 
excellent organisation in the rear services and the hard work of all con- 
cerned, the artillery and ammunition situation had been much improved, 
with the result that, for the forty-eight hours' bombardment and barrage 
work, 33 field artillery brigades, and 20 brigades and 13 batteries of heavy 
and siege artillery, were in position by October 15th with sufficient 
ammunition available. The system of barrages for the attack was similar 
to that for previous attacks, the lifts up to the first objective being at 
three minute intervals. Here, there was to be a halt of thirty minutes, 
after which the barrage was to continue to advance at the same rate up 
to the second objective i ; field and heavy artillery were detailed to move 
forward and cover the advance when it continued beyond the second 
objective. In view of the unsuitability of the northern portion of the 
army front for tank action, the IX Corps was allotted the bulk of the tanks, 
the "l6th Mark V Tank Battalion and the 6th Battalion of whippets 
operating with that corps, while the 301st American and 1st Mark V 
Tank Battalions remained with the II American and XIII Corps 
respectively. " Zero " was fixed for 5.20 a.m. on the 17th. 

By the 16th, on the eve of the Battle of the Selle, all arrangement 
had been completed. Energetic patrolling had furnished us with full 

> This was rather a faster rate than usual. 



208 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY [October igth 

information as regards the state of the enemy's defences, and the result 
of the preUminary bombardment had been reported as most effective. 
The moral of our troops had never been higher. They had, during the 
attacks of October 8th and 9th, seen the enemy in fiill flight and they 
knew that there were no more prepared defence lines to be overcome. 
Every day brought fresh news of the German retreat both in the Laon and 
Lens areas, and optimists were not lacking who prophesied that the war 
might end before Christmas. 



CHAPTER XI 

THE BATTLE OF THE SELLE, OCTOBER 17TH-19TH ; AND THE EVENTS 

TO OCTOBER 31ST 

Maps 2, 13, 14, and 15 

The plan of attack of the IX Corps — The dispositions of the 46th Division — The attack of the 
46th Division — The attack of the 6th Division — The dispositions of the 1st Division — The 
attack of the 1st Division — The result of the day's fighting by the IX Corps — The dispositions 
of the II American Corps — The attack of the" II American Corps — The dispositions of the 
XIII Corps — The attack of the 50th Division — Tank action — The plan of attack of the 66th 
Division — The South African Brigade attack — The result of the fighting on October 17th — 
The army orders for the attack on October 18th — Further orders from General Headquarters 
— October 18th ; the attack of the IX Corps — The attack of the II American Corps— The 
preparations for the attack of the XIII Corps — The attack of the 50th and 66th Divisions — 
The events of October 19th— The result of the Battle of the Selle — The army orders for the 
advance to be continued on October 23rd — Artillery and tanks — The readjustment of the 
front — The nature of the country — The detailed orders for the attack on October 23rd — The 
IX Corps plan — The XIII Corps plan — October 23rd; the attack of the IX Corps — The attack 
of the XIII Corps — The 25th Division attack — The 18th Division attack — The action of the 
tanks — The result of the day's fighting ; army orders issued for the attack to be continued 
on October 24th — October 24th ; ^the IX Corps attack— The XIII Corps attack— The result 
of the fighting on the 23rd and 24th — Minor operations from October 25th to 31st — The 
progress north and south of the Fourth Army — A summary of the situation on October 31st. 

Sir Walter Braithwaite decided to attack with the 46th Division 

on the right and the 6th Division on the left, while the 1st Division, which 

had moved up from Bellenglise during the night of the 

""^ I'^V^.**^'''' °^ 16th, was concentrated just north and west of Bohain. 

the IX Corps mi • i . t • ■ i i i • -,• , , 

Ihis last division was held in readiness to pass through 
the 6th Division and capture the second and third objectives, including 
the villages of Wassigny and La Vallee ]\Iulatre, after the 46th and 6th 
Divisions had secured the first objective. The attack of the IX Corps, 
owing to the lie of the ground, and to the position of Riquerval Wood in the 
south and of the Bellevue spur in the north, was complicated and required 
careful preparation, good preliminary staff work, and exceptional leader- 
ship from battalion and company commanders. 

As it was not considered advisable to make a frontal attack against 
Riquerval Wood, it was arranged that one brigade of the 46th Division 
should neutralise the enemy on this front, while the other two brigades, 
making a flank attack in a south-easterly direction, should clear all the 
ground west of the Bellevue spur, including Andigny-les-Fermes, and cut 
off the defenders of the wood. It was intended that the advance of the 
troops of the IX Corps should continue north of the Andigny Forest and 
should join up east of it with the XV French Corps which was attacking 

2«« EE 



210 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY [October i 7th 

along its southern edge, thus pinching it off. It was, therefore, arranged 
that, when the 46th Division had secured the first objective, it should form 
a defensive flank facing southwards, immediately south of the Regni- 
court-Andigny-les-Fermes road, in order to meet any hostile counter- 
attacks which might be delivered through the forest. Subsequently, 
should the attack progress favourably, it was to maintain touch with the 
French and " mop up " the forest as it advanced. 

At the same time the 6th Division, also attacking in a south-easterly 
direction from Vaux-Andigny, was to capture the Belle vue spur and the 
remainder of the first objective as far as the northern corps boundary, 
including the high ground north-west of La Vallee Mulatre. 

The dividing line between the 46th and 6th Divisions ran along the 
valley from the village of Vaux-Andigny to Andigny-les-Fermes. The 
boundary dividing the 6th Division, and later the 1st Division, from the 
Americans ran from north of Vaux-Andigny in a slightly north-easterly 
direction to the village of Ribeauville. 

The 46th Division formed up with the 137th, 139th, and 138th Bri- 
gades in line from south to north. The 137th Brigade held a front of 
about 2,500 yards, from the junction with the French to 
The ^^P°^^'|°^*^°^ ^^^ the northern edge of Riquerval Wood, with one bat- 
talion, the remaining two battalions being held in 
reserve. Its role was to deceive the enemy as to the direction of the real 
attack and to hold him by means of a "Chinese " attack ^ with dummy 
tanks and dummy figures. A special rolling barrage, in which the machine- 
gun company allotted to the brigade played a leading part, was to come 
down at " zero " and move through Riquerval Wood in an easterly direc- 
tion. 

The 139th and 138th Brigades, detailed for the main attack, held the 
line between Riquerval Wood and Vaux-Andigny. In order that these 
two brigades might start square with their objectives, which ran almost 
east and west just south of the Regnicourt-Andigny-les-Fermes road, it was 
arranged that they should form up along the Bohain-Vaux-Andigny road. 
As part of this line lay in the 6th Division area, special arrangements had 
to be made so that the forming up of the attacking troops of the 46th and 
6th Divisions should not clash. The barrage to cover the advance of 
these two brigades also required special treatment. It was not possible 
to place the artillery which was detailed to cover the advance in positions 
from which it could put down a frontal barrage, because this would have 
involved occupying battery positions required by the 6th Division and 
the 30th American Division. The barrage, therefore, fired from positions 
north and north-west of Bohain, was oblique to the line of advance. It 
was to move forward at the rate of a hundred yards every three minutes, 
and was finally to rest for thirty minutes on the northern edge of the 
Andigny Forest, after which it was to cease. 

The three tanks of the 16th Tank Battalion which were allotted to 
the 46th Division were to co-operate with the infantry, with a view to 
dealing first of all with a strong point situated about 1,500 yards east of 

■ This •' Chinese " attack succeeded in deceiving the enemy, as ten minutes after " zero " 
he put down a heavy barrage on the outpost line of this brigade. 



OcroBEBi7TH] THE BATTLE OF THE SELLE 211 

Guy ot Farm and, subsequently, to working along a line of trenches west of 
Regnicourt. Thereafter, leaving one tank to deal with the hostile trenches 
in Riquerval Wood, the other two were to assist in " mopping up " Regni- 
court and Andigny-les-Fermes. 

The attack was launched at 5.20 a.m. in a thick mist which 

caused several machine-gun nests to be passed by unmolested by the 

leading troops. The 139th Brigade advanced on a one- 

'^Ll***™ - '^^ battalion front, with the l/8th Sherwood Foresters 

win Division it .ii. /... ,, 

leadmg, supported by two companies of the l/5th 
Sherwood Foresters. The remaining battalion and a half were held in 
brigade reserve. Owing to the dense mist and the oblique nature of the 
barrage there was some loss of direction. The leading companies advanced 
without difficulty on the right and left, but in the centre the advance was 
checked by the fire of some machine-guns in a small clearing north-west 
of Regnicourt. A prompt use of reserves, however, by the battalion 
commander of the l/8th Sherwood Foresters in a flanking movement from 
the north, resulted in the capture of 140 prisoners and 27 machine-guns in 
the clearing. 

The enemy took up a position in a line of trenches running along 
the Regnicourt-Andigny-les-Fermes road, and was not finally dislodged 
until our leading troops had been reinforced by the remaining two com- 
panies of the l/5th Sherwood Foresters, and until an outflanking move- 
ment east of Regnicourt had been carried out with the assistance of a 
company of the 11th Essex of the 6th Division. 

The enemy's final withdrawal into the forest resulted soon after 10 a.m. 
in the capture of the whole of its objective by the 139th Brigade, which 
still had the l/6th Sherwood Foresters in reserve. About 11 a.m. the 
enemy attempted to launch a counter-attack from south-east of Regnicourt, 
but met with no success. The 137th Brigade, after its successful " Chinese" 
attack, received orders to push patrols into Riquerval Wood ; these patrols 
quickly got in touch with the 139th Brigade, and by 2.30 p.m. Riquerval 
Wood was clear of the enemy, and the 137th Brigade was in touch with 
the French on its right. By 3.30 p.m. it had reached the western edge of 
the Andigny Forest, and its patrols, which were still advancing supported 
by a battery, were meeting with little opposition. 

Meanwhile, north of the 139th Brigade, the 138th Brigade attacked 
with two battalions in line, the l/4th Leicestershire on the right, the l/5th 
Lincolnshire on the left, and the l/5th Leicestershire in reserve. The 
troops pressed forward rapidly and, in spite of the thick mist, had reached 
the Regnicourt-Andigny-les-Fermes road by 6.45 a.m. On the fog lifting 
some casualties were suffered from fire from the Bellevue spur, and there 
was a temporary check; when this position, however, had been captured by 
the 6th Division soon after 9 a.m., the 138th Brigade was able to continue its 
attack against the village of Andigny-les-Fermes. The 138th Brigade 
captured this village about 11.30 a.m. in conjunction with the 1st Loyal 
North Lancashire of the 1st Division, which had moved forward through 
the 6th Division on its way to attack the second objective. Attempts 
were now made by the 137th Brigade to establish touch with the French 
along the Andigny-les-Fermes- ]Mennevret road, a company being detailed 



212 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY [October itth 

for the purpose, but, owing to a strong post which was held by the enemy 
in the wood, junction with the French on this road was not estabUshed 
until 5.30 a.m. on the following day. 

By 7.30 p.m. the 46th Division had taken all its objectives, and its 
line ran from the Forester's House 1,000 yards west of Mennevret, where 
it was in touch with the French, to where it joined up with the 1st Division 
about 700 yards east of Andigny-les-Fermes. It held this line with all 
three brigades in line, of which the 137th Brigade was still fresh, while 
one battalion each of the 139th and 138th Brigades had only been 
slightly engaged. 

The captures for the day by the 46th Division amoiinted to about 
15 officers and 500 other ranks, chiefly belonging to the 5th Reserve Divi- 
sion, 2 field guns, and over 100 machine-guns. 

Maj.-Gen. Marden arranged to attack with the 18th and 16th Brigades 
in line and the 71st Brigade in reserve. The attack was to be 
made under an artillery barrage, for which eight brigades 
'^l^tteck oMhe of ggi(j artillery were available. The infantry advance 
ivjsi n ^^^ ^j^^ ^^ ^^ covered by the fire of eighty machine- 
guns of the 2nd Life Guards Machine Gun Battalion and the 6th 
Machine Gun Battalion, which received orders to search the reverse 
slopes of the spurs in order to prevent enfilade fire up the valleys. Three 
tanks of the 16th Mark V Tank Battalion were allotted to each attacking 
brigade to assist in the attack on a trench line running north from 
Andigny-les-Fermes, in front of which it was thought that there might 
be uncut wire. 

The assembly of the 18th and 16th Brigades, and the execution of the 
attack itself, presented considerable difficulties. The " starting line " of 
the division was extremely limited, each brigade having a frontage of 
only 700 yards on which to form up, while the total frontage when the 
first objective was reached would be about 4,000 yards ; the attack would, 
therefore, spread out fan-wise. These difficulties were further enhanced 
by both brigades having to debouch from the village of Vaux-Andigny, 
which might be shelled with gas prior to or immediately after the com- 
mencement of the attack, and by the fact that the " starting line " of the 
18th Brigade, which was to attack the Bellevue spur, faced east-south-east, 
while its direction of advance was south-east. 

The 18th and 16th Brigades moved forward to their preliminary 
assembly positions on October 16th and, before " zero," relieved the 
71st Brigade, which up to that time had been holding the divisional front. 
The assembly of the attacking troops was carried out without a hitch, 
in spite of heavy shelling with high explosive and gas which began two 
hours before " zero," but luckily fell in rear of the assembly positions. 

The 18th Brigade formed up on the line of the railway with its left 
at Vaux-Andigny station. The brigade was to attack on a two-battalion 
front, with the 11th Essex on the right, the 2nd Durham Light Infantry 
on the left, and with the 1st West Yorkshire in reserve in rear of the right 
flank. The part of the first objective assigned to the 18th Brigade lay 
between the village of Andigny-les-Fermes and a point 500 yards west 
of La Vallee Mulatre. At " zero " the two leading battalions advanced, 



October 17TH1 THE BATTLE OF THE SELLE 213 

each with two companies in line and two companies in support. A 
certain amount of uncut wire was encountered which caused the infantry 
to lose the barrage, and, owing to this and the mist, the troops lost direction ; 
the fighting that ensued became very confused. The tanks also lost 
direction and, joining the right company of the 11th Essex, proceeded with 
it in the direction of Regnicourt, where they took part in the capture of 
the village in conjunction with the 139th Brigade of the 46th Division, 
after which they proceeded to Andigny-les-Fermes, only to find that the 
troops of the ist and 46th Divisions had already captured it. Mean- 
while, the remainder of the 11th Essex was assisting to clear the Belle\'ne 
spur. Further north the 2nd Durham Light Infantry was checked on the 
northern slopes of the spur until reinforced by two companies of the 
1st West Yorkshire from reserve, when its advance was continued. 
Thus, about 10.30 a.m. troops of the 18th Brigade and of the 1st Division, 
which was now arriving on the scene, reached the first objective together. 

The 16th Brigade formed up with its right at the railway 
station of Vaux-Andigny ; the 1st The Buffs was on the right, the 
2nd York and Lancaster on the left, and the 1st Shropshire Light In- 
fantry in reserve. This brigade, which started parallel to its objective 
and had the railway as a guide, kept direction and by 9.15 a.m. had 
reached its objective, except on the extreme right where it did not arrive 
until an hour later. 

The 6th Division had, therefore, by 10.30 a.m. reached the first 
objective along its whole front, and the 1st Division was passing through. 
Owing to the fog, the fighting had been confused and in some places severe, 
as the enemy, consisting of portions of the 3rd Naval, loth Reserve, and 
24th Divisions, resisted with considerable determination. For the 
remainder of the day the front of the 6th Division was covered by the 1st 
Division, and a counter-attack from the direction of La Vallee Mulatre 
was forestalled by the attack of the latter division. 

Maj.-Gen. Strickland detailed the 1st and 2nd Brigades, on the 

right and left respectively, to carry out the attack on the second and 

third objectives, the leading troops of these two 

^^ ^srSon"* ""^ brigades " leap - frogging " the 6th Division during 

the half-hour pause of the barrage covering the first 

objective. The 1st and 2nd Brigades were to attack the second objective 

under a barrage and, when they had captured it, were to be covered 

by a protective barrage lasting for three hours. During this halt artillery 

and machine-guns were to be brought forward to furnish another barrage 

for the attack on the third objective. 

The dividing line between brigades ran east and west through Angin 
Farm to a point on the railway immediately west of La Vallee Mulatre, 
whence the railway was to be the boundary as far as the southern out- 
skirts of Wassigny. This gave the southern outskirts of La Vallee Mulatre 
and the northern portion of the Andigny Forest to the 1st Brigade, 
and the greater part of La Vallee Mulatre, the whole of Wassigny, and 
the high ground north of it to the 2nd Brigade. On the capture of 
Wassigny, however, the 1st Brigade was to take over the village and the 
grovmd as far north as the Wassigny-Oisy road from the 2nd Brigade. 



214 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY [October l 7th 

Attached to the division for the operations were twelve whippet tanks 
of the 6th Tank Battahon and three tanks of the 16th Mark V Tank 
BattaHon. To assist in the capture of La Vallee Mulatre, the three tanks 
of the 16th Tank Battahon were allotted to the 2nd Brigade, one of these 
tanks being detailed to work south of the railway in the 1st Brigade 
area. The whippet tanks were to be held in reserve for exploiting to the 
Sambre and Oise Canal after the third objective had been taken. The 
arrangements for the assembly of the 1st and 2nd Brigades presented 
some difficulty, as both brigades had to pass through the troops of the 6th 
Division on a line 2,500 to 3,000 yards east of Vaux-Andigny. As the 
barrage only paused on this line for half an hour, it was necessar>' that 
the two brigades should follow close behind the troops of the 6th Division, 
when these advanced at " zero," without waiting for information as to 
the success or failure of the 6th Division attack ; in order to do this it 
was necessary to assemble in rear of and in touch with them, immediately 
west of Vaux-Andigny. But the attacks of the 6th and 46th Divisions 
both debouched from the neighbourhood of Vaux-Andigny, the 6th 
Division attacking east and south-east, and the 46th Division attacking 
south-east ; the tails of these two divisions, therefore, converged west 
of Vaux-Andigny. In addition to this, the direction of the American 
attack on the left of the 6th Division was considerably north of east, 
with the result that the tail of the 59th American Brigade which was to 
lead the attack, and the head of the 60th American Brigade which was 
to follow close behind it, both required to be in the area west of Vaux- 
Andigny. An assembly position in this neighbourhood was, therefore, 
required by troops of all four divisions concerned. Thanks to the harmony 
which reigned in the IX Corps, and between it and the American Corps, 
and to the excellent arrangements made by the 1st and 2nd Brigades, 
all difficulties were overcome, and the assembly was successfully completed. 
The attacking troops advanced at 5.20 a.m. through the mist, which 
considerably hampered their movement. The 1st Brigade advanced 

with the 1st Loyal North Lancashire on the right, 
"* ist^DiXsron *^^ the 1st Cameron Highlanders on the left, and the 1st 

Black Watch in reserve; the 2nd Brigade moved for- 
ward with the 1st Northamptonshire on the right, the 2nd King's 
Royal Rifle Corps on the left, and the 2nd Royal Sussex in reserve. On 
the left the 2nd Brigade was unable to find the tracks through the gardens 
and hedges which it had reconnoitred and intended to use in order to avoid 
the main road through Vaux-Andigny, so the troops were compelled to 
use this road, upon which the enemy concentrated a considerable amount 
of artillery fire. The approach march to the " starting line " was con- 
tinued in spite of this and of the fact that the 6th Division in its advance 
had passed by a number of machine-gun nests unnoticed owing to the 
fog. These met the troops of both the 1st and 2nd Brigades with heavy 
fire, as soon as they appeared east of Vaux-Andigny, and while still 2,000 
yards from their " starting line." 

During this approach march the 1st Loyal North Lancashire on the 
right, after assisting in the capture of the Bellevue spur, where the fire 
from strong machine-gun positions threatened at one time to check the 



October 17th] THE BATTLE OF THE SELLE 215 

entire advance, pushed troops forward into Andigny-les-Fermes in its 
efforts to get touch with the 46th Division and assisted the 138th Brigade 
to " mop up " this village. On the left of the 1st Loyal North Lancashire, 
the 1st Cameron Highlanders was at one time completely checked by 
machine-gvm fire near the first objective. The situation here was 
retrieved by the successful action of a single platoon, which was dispatched 
by the battalion commander to work round by the railway on the left 
and outflank the enemy's position; the advance was also materially 
assisted by the close support of a section of 18-pounders. 

The approach march of the 1st Northamptonshire was successfully 
conducted without special incident. The 2nd King's Royal Rifle Corps 
on the left of the line was heavily shelled in Vaux-Andigny, and, on emerg- 
ing from the village, the battalion commander and adjutant found them- 
selves alone in the mist with a handful of men, the rest of the battalion 
having disappeared. Within a short space of time, however, the whole 
battalion found its way to its correct position on the " starting line " and 
then proceeded to advance, still on compass bearings, towards the second 
objective. When the fog lifted the battalion found itself in its correct 
position with the 1st Northamptonshire on its right. The manner in 
which the four leading battalions of the 1st and 2nd Brigades, moving by 
compass bearing throughout the advance, maintained their cohesion and 
direction and reached their " starting line " on the first objective, 
practically up to time, constituted a very fine achievement. 

Although all four battalions advanced from their " starting line " 
towards the second objective approximately according to the time-table, 
they lost touch with the barrage. In spite of this, however, they fought 
their way forward for about 1,000 yards, which brought the right of the 
division on to the objective, the centre east of La Vallee Mvdatre, and the 
left to the neighbourhood of the Wassigny-St. Souplet railway, some 
little distance short of the objective. La Vallee Mulatre was cap- 
txired by the 1st Northamptonshire, but some troops of the 29th German 
Division counter-attacked from the wood to the south-east and drove 
our men back to the centre of the village. 

Thus about midday the 1st Division was approximately on the 
line of the second objective from Andigny-les-Fermes northwards, through 
the centre of La Vallee Mulatre, to the railway north of the 
village, where touch was gained with the Americans. By this time the 
barrage programme was over, and any fvui;her progress by the infantry 
had to be made with the assistance of such artillery support as could be 
arranged by commanders on the spot. The enemy had fought well, 
and an advance, in these circumstances, would have been costly. Maj.- 
Gen. Strickland, therefore, decided to prepare for an organised attack 
on the front of both brigades in the evening. 

This attack took place at 5.15 p.m., but the barrage was not as good 
as usual, owing to the short notice and to the difficulty of communicating 
with the batteries which had all been on the move. On the 1st Brigade 
front the 1st Loyal North Lancashire and 1st Cameron Highlanders 
reached the edge of the wood south-east of La Vallee Mulatre. A heavy 
gas shelling in this area, however, forced the commanders on the spot 



216 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY [October i 7th 

to order a withdrawal practically to the " starting line." The 1st 
Northamptonshire again cleared La Vallee Mulatre and established itself 
well east of it. North of the village a certain amount of progress was 
made, ovir troops at one time reaching the vicinity of Ribeauville, the 
hostile machine-guns in this neighbourhood prevented us, however, from 
maintaining all the ground gained. 

The 3rd Brigade in reserve moved during the night to the valley 
just west of La Vallee Mulatre, where it arrived at dawn on the 18th, 
and commanders reconnoitred forward in view of a probable continuance 
of the attack. 

As the result of the day's operations the IX Corps had advanced 

its line to a depth of 4,500 yards ; it had firmly established itself on the 

The result of the crest of the watcr-shed which divided the Selle and 

day's fighting by the the Sambrc valleys and was in an excellent position 

IX Corps ^Q continue its advance next day. It had engaged 

and defeated the 5th Reserve, 29th, and 81st Reserve Divisions, and 

portions of the 3rd Naval, 15th Reserve, and 24th Divisions. To accomplish 

this, it had employed three divisions, but of these one brigade of each 

division was still untouched. 

The task of the II American Corps was to cross the headwaters of 

the Selle between Molain and St. Souplet and capture the important 

hamlet of Arbre Guernon and the villages of Slazing- 

The dispositions of the hien and RibcauviUe. From reconnaissance of the ground 

encan orps .^ ^^^ clear that the attack on the first objective, 

which included Arbre Guernon and Bandival Farm, was hkely to be the 

more arduous. The obstacle formed by the stream was made more 

formidable by the fact that the enemy held the hamlets of Molain and 

St. Martin Rivere and the eastern outskirts of St. Souplet, which lay 

astride the river ; while the Le Cateau-Wassigny railway, which was 

admirably adapted for defence, barred the way to the high groimd 

about Ai-bre Guernon. 

Prior to the attack on the 17th the II American Corps had been hold- 
ing the line with the 27th Division, but on October 16th, for the piirpose 
of the operations, the 30th Division was introduced into the hne between 
the 27th American Division and the IX Corps. The dividing hne between 
the 27th and 30th Divisions ran in a north-easterly direction, leaving St. 
Martin Rivere, Molain, Ribeauville, and Mazinghien in the area of the 
30th Division, and Arbre Guernon, Bandival Farm, La Roux Farm, and 
Jonc de Mer Farm in that of the 27th Division. The northern boundary 
of the corps ran from the northern outskirts of St. Souplet, past La Roiix 
Farm, to the southern edge of Bazuel. 

The 30th and 27th American Divisions, which were now very weak 
in numbers, each attacked on a front of two regiments with two regiments 
in support. The 30th American Division advanced 
The attack of the n ^j^j^ ^he 117th and 118th Regiments of the 59th 
Amencan Corps ^^-^^^^ j^ Hne followed by the 119th and 120th Regi- 
ments of the 60th Brigade in support. The 27th American Division 
advanced with the 53rd Brigade on the right, the 105th Regiment leading, 
and the 54th Brigade on the left, the 108th Regiment leading; 




r> 



/. .• 



w 
<v 

4-t 

.a- 









..^v^ 



r-^'* 



» V.i 




< 

< 
> 

Q 
Z 

< 
PQ 

Q 

< 






October 17th] THE BATTLE OF THE SELLE 217 

the 106th and 107th Regiments followed in support, on the right and left 
respectively. 

Ten tanks of the 301st American Tank Battalion were detailed to 
assist the 27th American Division, and twelve tanks the 30th American 
Division. The 20th Hussars were also attached to the II American 
Corps, one squadron with each division, and the remaining squadron in 
corps reserve. The goal of the leading regiments of both divisions was 
the second objective, after the capture of which the regiments in rear 
were to pass through and secure the third objective. 

At 5.20 a.m. the divisions advanced to the attack assisted by the 
301st American Tank Battalion, of which twenty tanks reached the 
" starting line." They succeeded in crossing the Selle without much diffi- 
culty, although some casualties were suffered from machine-gun fire 
which came chiefly from the direction of St. Martin Rivere. The enemy's 
main line of defence was along the line of the railway, and here severe 
fighting took place. The American infantry owing to the strong 
opposition could advance but slowly, and the barrage was in consequence 
lost. Notwithstanding this, the 30th Division pushed forward with the 
greatest determination, gained the first objective, and on the right even 
penetrated to the outskirts of Ribeauville. 

On the left of the II American Corps front, owing to the mist, touch 
between the 27th American Division and the 50th Division was lost 
at an early hour. The 105th and 108th Regiments of the 27th American 
Division met with determined opposition, and were unable to fight their 
way forward past, the railway east of St. Souplet and gain the first 
objective until some hours after " zero." After a short pause on the 
first objective the 27th American Division continued its advance and 
attacked Arbre Guernon, but the 204th German Division made a strong 
counter-attack against it and the 50th Division on its left, and the American 
troops were forced back almost to the line of the railway. 

Not to be denied, however, the 53rd and 54th American Brigades 
again pressed forward and re-established their line along the Arbre 
Guernon-Le Cateau road, regaining touch with the 50th Division at 
4.30 p.m. During the afternoon the 27th American Division, after heavy 
fighting, succeeded in driving the enemy out of Arbre Guernon, which 
it held in spite of vigorous attempts by the Germans to retake it. One 
thousand six hundred prisoners and 12 guns were taken during the 
day, and heavy losses were inflicted on the enemy in the severe fight- 
ing which took place. The Americans had been opposed by the 3rd Naval 
and 204th Divisions, as well as by portions of the 24th and 243rd Divisions.^ 

Sir Thomas Morland arranged for the attack of the XIII Corps ^ 

to be made by two divisions, the 50th Division on the right and the 66th 

Division on the left, with the 25th Division in reserve. 

The topositions^of the j.^^ dividing line between the 50th and 66th Divisions 

was the Honnechy-Le Cateau road as far as the southern 

exit of Le Cateau, thence north of the railway triangle, which was inclusive 

' Of these, the 3rd Naval and 20-lth Divisions were comparatively fresh, and the former had 
only been brought into the line since the enemy's retreat to the Selle." 

* The attack should be followed in detail on Map 14 in order to realise the di£Qculties. 

F F 



218 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY [October 17th 

to the 50th Division, thence along the Le Cateau-Pommereuil road, 
inclusive to the 66th Division. The 25th Division remained in the Maretz 
area, with the 75th Brigade forward at Reumont. 

The operation was to be divided into three phases. In the first 
phase, the 151st Brigade of the 50th Division, after forming up in depth on 
a narrow front, was to cross the Selle immediately north of St. Souplet, 
capture the railway embankment immediately opposite its point of crossing, 
and then fan out on the first objective along the Arbre Guernon- 
Le Cateau road. The right and centre battalions of the brigade, immedi- 
ately after crossing the river, were to move north-eastwards on to the 
high ground which bounds the river valley on the east ; the left battalion 
was to turn due north, roll up the enemy's defences along the railway, 
and capture the extensive buildings and goods sheds about Le Cateau 
station. 

In the second phase, the 149th Brigade was to pass one battalion 
over the crossings made by the 151st Brigade and one battalion over 
the demolished bridge at St. Benin. These two battalions, after passing 
through the right and centre battalions of the 151st Brigade, were to 
capture the second objective, namely the ridge inmning parallel to the 
first objective and about 2,000 yards further east. The third battalion 
of the 149th Brigade, following the right battalion of its brigade, was to 
tui'n northwards after crossing the railway and move on the railway 
triangle south-east of Le Cateau. In conjunction with the attack of the 
149th Brigade, the South African Brigade of the 66th Division was to 
cross the river north of the town and establish itself along the railway 
as far north as the northern corps boundary, joining up with the 149th 
Brig.ide immediately north of the railway triangle. 

The third phase was to be carried out by the 150th Brigade of the 
50th Division, which was to pass through the 149th Brigade and 
captiire Bazuel, while the South African Brigade was to conform by 
swinging forward its right, and was to establish itself on the ridge 
between Le Cateau and the Richemont River. Special parties of the 
198th Brigade of the 66th Division were also detailed during this phase to 
" mop up " Le Cateau. Since the V Corps was not attacking simultaneously 
with the XIII Corps, careful arrangements were made to obliterate by 
smoke the enemy's observation from the high ground north-east of 
Montay. The V Corps also agreed to attract the enemy's attention on its 
front by vigorous artillery action, including a creeping barrage. 

The ground afforded exceptional facilities for artillery and machine- 
gun support. In order to strengthen the machine-gun covering fire the 
machine-gun battalions of the 50th and 66th Divisions, were reinforced 
by the machine-gun battalions of the 18th and 25th Divisions. Twelve 
tanks from the 1st Mark V Tank Battahon were allotted to the 50th 
Division, but it was no easy matter to get them across the Selle. 

The initial front of attack of the 50th Division was restricted to a 
width of some 600 yards, and the whole success of 
'^loth^D^isfon^* ^^^ P^^^ depended on breaking through the enemy's 
line on this frontage. 

The 151st Brigade (4th King's Royal Rifle Corps, 1st King's Own 



"^ 




z 



2 



October 17th] THE BATTLE OF THE SELLE 219 

Yorkshire Light Infantry, 6th Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers) and the 3rd 
Royal Fusiliers and 2nd Royal Dublin Fusiliers of the 149th Brigade 
were formed up north of St. Souplet.i ready to cross the river as soon as 
the barrage came down and bridges had been thrown across by the Royal 
Engineers. The remaining battalion of the 149th Brigade, the 13th Royal 
Highlanders (Scottish Horse), was in St. Benin, ready to cross the river. 
The 150th Brigade was in reserve immediately west of the railway 
embankment and was to advance, as soon as the second objective was 
captured, to the valley separating the first and second objectives, and 
there deploy for the attack on Bazuel. 

The artillery and machine-gun barrage came down at 5.20 a.m. 
Under cover of it the bridging of the river was quickly accomplished by 
the Royal Engineers ; within three minutes of " zero," twelve bridges 
were placed across the river north of St. Souplet by the 446th Field 
Company and a company of the 5th Royal Irish Regiment (Pioneers) ; 
while in the same time four bridges were thrown across the Selle at St. 
Benin by the 447th Field Company, assisted by two platoons of the 
pioneer battalion. This expeditious and satisfactory work avoided any 
delay. Moreover, the crossing of the infantry was obscured by the heavy 
mist and smoke of the barrage. During the night the enemy had fired 
a considerable number of gas shell along the whole length of the Selle 
Valley ; there was, however, very little hostile shelling at " zero." 

The first battalion to cross the river was the 4th King's Royal Rifle 
Corps ; it was closely followed by the 1st King's Own Yorkshire Light 
Infantry and the 6th Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. The attacking troops 
soon encountered strong opposition, both from the line of the railway 
and from the slope of the ridge east of the river. At 8.45 a.m. the 4th 
King's Royal Rifle Corps, with two companies of the 1st King's Own 
Yorkshire Light Infantrj^ had advanced no further than the western 
slopes of the spur immediately east of St. Crepin and the railway ; at 
the same hour the other two companies of the 1st King's Own Yorkshire 
Light Infantry were fighting in the orchards on the top of the ridge due 
east of St. Benin. Further north the 6th Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, 
which had turned north to roll up the enemy's line, was meeting with 
strong opposition from the station buildings. 

About 9.30 a.m., owing to the 151st Brigade being checked short 
of the first objective by the resistance of the 204th and 243rd German 
Divisions, the battalions of the 149th Brigade, which had been detailed to 
capture the second objective, became embroiled in the fight. The 3rd 
Royal Fusiliers, moving up in rear of the 4th King's Royal 
Rifle Corps, formed a defensive flank facing south, as touch with the 
Americans had been temporarily lost, while the 2nd Royal Dublin 
Fusiliers advanced to support the 1st King's Own Yorkshire Light 
Infantry ; the 13th Royal Highlanders was sent to reinforce the 6th 
Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. About 11 a.m., when the mist lifted, the situa- 
tion of the attacking troops could at last be definitely ascertained. The 
4th King's Royal Rifle Corps was just west of the Le Cateau-Arbre Guernon 

' On the night of October 16th the 151st and 149th BrigadesThad relieved the 150th Brigade 
in the line. 



220 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY [Octobee 17th 

road, facing Le Quennelet Farm, with the 3rd Royal Fusiliers on its 
right, forming a defensive flank facing south-east across the head of the 
valley north of Bandival Farm, on the spur to the east of which were 
troops of the 27th American Division, The companies of the 1st King's 
Own Yorkshire Light Infantry and 2nd Royal Dublin Fusiliers were 
intermingled, and were held in check by the enemy in the orchards on the 
Arbre Guernon-Le Cateau road, north of the 4th King's Royal Rifle Corps, 
The companies of the 6th Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers and 13th Royal 
Highlanders, also intermingled, were fighting round the station buildings 
and meeting with strong opposition. 

As the 149th Brigade had thus been unable to advance against the 
second objective, the 150th Brigade (2nd Northumberland Fusiliers, 
7th Wiltshire, 2nd Royal Munster Fusiliers) was brought forward to 
carry out this task, its place in reserve being taken by the 75th Brigade 
of the 25th Division, which was placed at the disposal of Maj.-Gen. 
Jackson. With a view to preparing the way for the continuance of the 
attack, the massed heavy artillery of the corps put down an intense bom- 
bardment from 3 p,m, to 3.30 p.m. on the northern portion of the station 
buildings and on the railway triangle. Our attack, however, was antici- 
pated by two strong German counter-attacks which were made against 
the junction of the II American Corps and the 50th Division. These 
countei'- attacks struck the 3rd Royal Fusiliers, the 4th King's Royal Rifle 
Corps, and the 1st King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry. The latter 
battalion held its ground, but the two former, having suffered heavy 
casualties, were forced back off the top of the ridge down the western 
slopes. These counter-attacks also drove back the American 27th 
Division. 

In consequence of this the 150th Brigade was at 4 p.m. ordered to 
regain the lost ground and to make good the first objective. This mission 
was entrusted to the 7th Wiltshire and the 2nd Royal Munster Fusiliers, 
who, rushing forward, carried with them the troops of the 4th King's 
Royal Rifle Corps and the 3rd Royal Fusiliers and by 4.30 p.m. had estab- 
lished themselves on the first objective. About the same time the enemy 
was driven out of the station buildings, but still held the brickworks. 
The 50th Division, after this attack, held practically the whole 
of the first objective within its divisional boundaries. On the right 
touch had been established with the 27th American Division at the farm 
buildings about 500 yards north of Bandival Farm, which the Americans 
had captvued, while on the left the 66th Division had reached the line of 
railway, a short distance north of the main Le Cateau-Bazuel road.^ 
This division was, however, unable to advance further until the railway 
triangle had been captured by the 50th Division. 

By this time the infantry of the 50th Division was considerably 
disorganised, and, as it was impossible to extricate the battalions of any 
one brigade, Maj.-Gen. Jackson divided his line into three sections, each 
section being held by a group of three battalions. The right group, consist- 
ing of the 3rd Royal Fusiliers, the 7th Wiltshire, and the 4th King's Royal 
Rifle Corps, held the line of the Arbre Guernon-Le Cateau road from the 

> See page 217. '^ See page 224. 



October 17th] THE BATTLE OF THE SELLE 221 

southern corps boundary to the orchards. The centre group, consisting 
of the 1st King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, the 2nd Royal Munster 
Fusiliers, and the 2nd Royal Dublin Fusiliers, held from the orchards in- 
clusive to opposite the brickworks. The left group, consisting of the 2nd 
Northumberland Fusiliers, the 13th Royal Highlanders (Scottish Horse), 
and the 6th Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, held from opposite the brick- 
works to the divisional boundary north of the station. This line was 
firmly established, and at 8 p.m. the brickworks were captured with 
100 prisoners. The left group also attacked the railway triangle at 
8 p.m., and the fighting continued in this part of the field throughout 
the night. 

An important part in the operations of the 50th Division was taken 

by the tanks. Of the twelve tanks of the 1st Mark V Tank Battalion 

originally allotted to the division, only eleven were 

Tank action available, and these were distributed between the 
151st and 149th Brigades, four tanks accompanying 
the right and left attacks; and three the centre. After careful reconnais- 
sance it had been ascertained that the only practicable place at which 
the tanks could cross the Selle was where the St. Souplet-Arbre Guernon 
road crosses the river. Here, where the stream was only eight feet wide 
and four feet deep, it was found that a crossing could be effected with 
the help of " cribs " ^ ; a route to the crossing-place was taped out on 
the night of the 16th, and all the tanks, having arrived beyond the stream 
shortly after " zero," proceeded to follow up the infantry. Of the right 
group, one tank speedily became bogged in the marshy ground, but the 
other three tanks reached the first objective and " mopped up " several 
machine-guns. Of the centre group, the crew of one tank was overcome 
by gas fumes and was unable to proceed; the other two reached 
the first objective and became heavily engaged with hostile artillery and 
machine-guns, one tank receiving six direct hits and catching fire. Of 
the left group, one tank was unable to cross the river, two were bogged, 
while the remaining tank, after over-running two machine-gun posts, 
put out of action the detachments of two field guns near the orchards. 
It then proceeded to the vicinity of the station, where it disposed of two 
trench mortars, after which it returned along the railway to St. Souplet. 

The objective of the 66th Division was that part of the long ridge, west 

of Bazuel, which lies between the Le Cateau-Pommereuil road and the 

Richemont river. The attack presented considerable 

^AIh^'dS °* difficulties. Le Cateau, east of the Selle, was in the hands 

of the enemy and would have to be cleared ; the 

Selle, which was under the enemy's observation, could only be crossed 

by bridges. Furthermore, it had been decided that Le Cateau was to 

be encircled by the 66th Division from the north and the 50th Division 

from the south, the troops of the two divisions meeting at the eastern 

exit of the town ; as the troops of the 50th Division had considerably 

further to go than those of the 66th Division, the synchronisation of the 

attacks of the 66th and 50th Divisions required careful adjustment. 

' These were very strong hexagonal franries, constructed by the Tank Corps, which were dropped 
into the obstacles and over which the tanks then crossed. 



222 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY [October l 7th 

In order to ensure this the South African Brigade was ordered to 
start at 7.47 a.m., two hours and twenty-seven minutes after " zero." 
Attacking on a front of 900 yards, it was to cross the Selle by eight 
bridges, placed by the engineers across the river immediately north of 
Le Cateau. At 8.20 a.m., three hours after " zero," at which hour it was 
estimated that the attacking brigades of the 66th and 50th Divisions 
would have joined hands east of the town, the 198th Brigade was to 
begin clearing Le Cateau, starting from the north-east. After the capture 
of its objective by the South African Brigade, special instructions were 
issued to ensure the clearing up of the line of the railway and the forma- 
tion of a defensive flank as far north as Montay. The South African 
Brigade in its attack was to advance in a south-easterly direction under 
a creeping barrage, with its right flank resting on the Faubourg St. Martin- 
Fauboiurg de Landrecies road, and, after gaining touch with the 50th 
Division near the Faubourg de Landrecies, was to move forward with 
its flank along the Le Cateau-Pommercuil road. The left of the brigade 
was to advance due east through Baillon Farm to the level crossing just 
east of it, where a strong point was to be established in order to protect 
the left flank of the division. After the line of the railway had been 
captured and contact obtained with the 50th Division, the advance was 
to be continued, pivoting on the level crossing, until the objective of the 
division was reached. 

It was essential that the attack should be a surprise and that no 
indications should be given to the enemy that the bridging of the Selle 
north of Le Cateau was contemplated. With a view to diverting the 
enemy's attention from this part of the field, feints at bridging opera- 
tions were carried out in Le Cateau, in order to make him believe that 
a direct advance through the town was intended. 

The valley of the Richemont river was to be bombarded with gas 
shell on the night of the 16th up to 3 a.m. on the 17th, and at " zero " 
an intense bombardment, carried out for fifteen minutes by guns and 
howitzers of all calibres, was to be directed on the area lying between Le 
Cateau and Baillon Farm, to be followed by a slower rate of fire on the 
same area. A similar programme was also to be carried out by the 38th Divi- 
sion of the V Corps, immediately north of the Fourth Army. A proportion 
of smoke shell was to be used in the bombardment of the north-east and 
eastern outskirts of Le Cateau, on the area between the Selle and the railway 
north of Baillon Farm, and on the slopes of the spur north-east of Montay. 
At 7.29 a.m. a barrage was to be put down 300 yards in front of the 
infantry " starting line." This barrage was to remain stationary for fifteen 
minutes and was then to advance, at the rate of 100 yards every three 
minutes, straight through to a distance of 300 yards in front of the divisional 
objective, no halt being made on the railway line. Having paused for 
three hours beyond this objective, the barrage was again to advance on 
the right flank of the division in order to assist the advance of the 50th 
Division to its final objective. Six machine-gun companies were to 
supplement the artillery barrage. 

By midnight on October 16th, when the final dispositions of the 66th 
Division had been completed, the 198th Brigade (6th Lancashire Fusiliers, 



><> 




Q 
U 
to 

CO 

O 
X 

w 

Q 
< 
O 

5 
m 

< 

< 

X 
H 
D 
O 

CO 

W 
K 
h 

W 

W 
X 



< 

w 

< 
O 

w 
1-1 

O 

h 
O 

z 

h 

CO 



W 
M 

CO 

W 

X 



October 17TH] THE BATTLE OF THE SELLE 223 

5th Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, 6th Royal Dublin Fusiliers) held the 
line on the right, with the 6th Royal Dublin Fusiliers and two companies 
of the 5th Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers ready to " mop up " Le Cateau. 
The remaining two companies of the 5th Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers 
were holding the line north of the South African Brigade, having relieved 
portions of that brigade between the Roman road and the northern divi- 
sional boundary. The 6th Lancashire Fusiliers were in divisional reserve 
in the valley west of Le Cateau : the South African Brigade was in the 
centre of the line with all three battalions along the western banks of the 
Selle ^ : the 199th Brigade was in divisional reserve north of Reumont. 

On the night of the 16th parties of the 9th Gloucestershire (Pioneers) 
and the divisional engineers erected eight bridges immediately north of 
Le Cateau, completing them by 2 a.m. Opposite these bridges the South 
African Brigade was formed up by 5 a.m., with the 4th South African 
Battalion on the right, the 2nd South African Battalion on the left, and the 
1st South African Battalion in close support. As soon as the bridges were 
laid, the South Africans pushed patrols across the stream and established 
themselves in rifle pits in the midst of the wire entanglements 
which had been erected by the enemy along the east bank of the river. 
In this dangerous situation, within fifty yards of the enemy's advanced 
posts, the brigade lay for three hours, protected from observation by 
the friendly mist, and escaping, by the very hazard of its position, from 
the hostile artillery and machine-gun fire, the bulk of which passed harm- 
lessly overhead. 

At 8.45 a.m. information was received that the 149th Brigade of 

the 50th Division had crossed the river, and the welcome order to advance 

was given. Rapidly crossing the stream the leading 

^rigade'attMk'''' waves joined the advanced posts, penetrated the wire 

obstacles, and, pressing forward up the hill, vanished 

into the mist. Meanwhile, the second wave, after crossing the river, was 

temporarily checked by the obstacles on the further bank. Patrols were 

sent forward, but nothing could be seen of the leading waves. A report 

was sent back that the attack had failed, and, so substantial was the 

evidence, that a discussion was held between the divisional and brigade 

commanders as to the advisability of bringing back the barrage to its 

initial line in order to start the attack " de novo " with fresh troops. 

Fortunately, however, before any such drastic expedient could be decided 

on, a message was received that our troops had reached the railway 

cutting and were engaged in hand-to-hand fighting with the enemy. 

After crossing the river the leading waves had encountered several 
lines of wire about thirty yards from the stream and parallel to it. On 
approaching the railway a still more formidable obstacle was met with 
in the shape of fovu" to six belts of wire ; moreover, the railway cutting 
was lined with machine-guns and riflemen. With indomitable courage 

' Some days prior to the attack, several attempts had been made to bridge the Selle between 
Le Cateau and Montay, which was here twenty feet wide and five feet deep, with the surface of 
the water five feet below the steep grass-covered banks. These attempts had been frustrated by 
machine-gun fire from several German posts immediately west of the Selle, but on the night of 
the 15th, the 1st South African Battalion had cleared the whole of the left bank of the river, as far 
as Montay, of the enemy. 



224 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY [October i 7th 

the South African troops rose to the emergency. At one point, a shallow 
trench was found, evidently used by the enemy to communicate from 
the railway cutting to an advanced post ; at another, a tortuous path 
through the wire for the use of his patrols was discovered ; at another, 
a narrow passage was laboriously cut by hand. With dogged determina- 
tion small parties of men, covered by Lewis gun fire, fought their way 
through and penetrated into the cutting, where very bitter fighting took 
place. Gradually, and with great difficulty, reinforcing troops dribbled 
up to support the points where penetration had been effected ; slowly 
but surely the enemy's resistance was overcome, and by about 9.45 a.m. 
a considerable portion of the railway cutting was in our possession. 

At 10.20 a.m. the 2nd South African Battalion reached its final 
objective on the crest of the ridge. It was unable to stay there owing to 
heavy machine-gun fire from both its left flank and right rear, and fell 
back on to the railway cutting, where it got in touch with the 4th Battalion 
on its right. By 12 noon the South African Brigade had captured the 
whole of the railway from a point 500 yards north of the railway triangle 
to the northern boundary of the XIII Corps, but it was found impossible 
to advance further east until the 50th Division had captiured the railway 
triangle. 

Meanwhile, at 9 a.m. two companies of the 6th Royal Dublin Fusiliers 
had followed the right battalion of the South African Brigade across the 
Selle and had begun to " mop up " Le Cateau. These companies were 
shortly afterwards reinforced by the remainder of the battalion, as it 
was important to captiu-e all the strong points in the eastern part of the 
town as soon as possible, owing to the casualties they were causing to the 
South African Brigade. Further south two platoons of the 6th Royal 
Dublin Fusiliers also succeeded in crossing the river, and began working 
north to meet the remainder of the battalion ; they were joined later by 
two companies of the 5th Royal InniskiUing Fusiliers. 

The position remained practically unchanged during the day ; at 
nightfall the 66th Division was holding the whole town of Le Cateau, 
from its southern exit to just north of its eastern exit, with the 198th 
Brigade, only two battalions of which had been engaged. ^ North of the 
19Sth Brigade the South African Brigade held the line of the railway 
as far as the Roman road at Montay, with two companies of the 5th 
Royal InniskiUing Fusiliers prolonging the line to the northern corps 
boundary. The South African Brigade had fully employed two of its 
battalions, while the third battalion had also been engaged. In reserve, 
however, were the 199th Brigade and the 6th Lancashire Fusiliers, intact ; 
the division was therefore in good condition to continue the battle. 

The position attacked by the 66th Division, and especially by the 
South African Brigade, requires to be studied on the ground before the 
difficulties overcome by the initiative and leadership of the regimental 
officers and non-commissioned officers, and by the gallantry of all ranks, can 
be fully realised. None but the very best troops could have attempted, 
let alone have succeeded in, such an enterprise, and the crossing of the Selle 

' The 66th Division had been opposed by the 177th Reserve Division and portions of the 
44th Reserve Division. 



October 17TH] THE BATTLE OF THE SELLE 225 

at Le Cateau will always remain, like the struggle in Delville Wood in 1916, 

a lasting testimony to the fighting qualities of the South African soldier. 

The attack of the 17th had broken the crust of the enemy's defence 

on the Hermann Stellung I. The most difficult part of the task set to the 

three corps had been carried out with the same skill 

fl»i,^!lf,r^!fnL!?w^i^~fh and dash which had been so noticeable in previous 
ngnting on October l/tn , , •, ii-iii- • ,,i-o, 

attacks, and which had given rise to the belief that 

no task was now beyond their power. The passage of the Selle had been 

forced, and our troops were firmly established along the western portion 

of the ridge separating the Selle and the Sambre Valleys ; no serious 

physical obstacle now remained to retard our advance till the Sambre 

and Oise Canal was reached. 

The Allied success had by no means been confined to the Fourth 
Army front. On the right of the IX Corps the First French Army had 
attacked in strength with the Oise as its objective. In spite of deter- 
mined resistance and several counter-attacks, it had established a line west 
of Hauteville, along the western outskirts of Aisonville and Grougis, and 
west and north-west of Mennevret, and had captured over 1,200 prisoners. 

A severe resistance had been expected, as it was clear that the 
situation of the enemy was becoming desperate, and that his hopes of 
an armistice depended largely on his troops being able to check our 
advance.! But the resistance was even more obstinate than had been 
anticipated. 

It had been estimated that our advance would be opposed by four 
fresh and two exhausted divisions in the line. Our initial attack was 
actually opposed by five fresh and three fairly fresh divisions ; four of 
the fresh divisions, the 17th Reserve, 44th Reserve, 204th, and 243rd, 
held the line north of St. Souplet, while the 5th Reserve Division, also 
fresh, opposed the IX Corps in the Andigny-les-Fermes area. In the course 
of the morning yet another fresh division, the 29th, recently liberated by 
the evacuation of the Laon salient, counter-attacked at La Vallee 
Mulatre. 

The total of prisoners captured during the 17thamounted to about 4,500, 
taken from ten different divisions, of which the IX Corps captured 1,500, 
the II American Corps 1,800, and the XIII Corps 1,200. Over 20 guns 
were also captured. 

' The following captured orders are of interest : — 

Issued by an Artillery Sub-Group Commander of the 204th Division, on October 12th : — 

" The Higher Command states that the possibiUty of an armistice being brought 
about depends on the battle coming to a standstill. 

" All ofRcers are to be informed. Other ranks are to be reminded that every gunner, 
whether gun number, telephonist, linesman, or observer, must carry out his duty day and 
night. 

" The English must not cross the Selle on our front. The artillery must prevent 
them." 

Issued by the Commander of an Artillery close-range group belonging to the 79th Reserve 
Division, undated : — 

" The Higher Command have ordered that troops are to be made to understand 
clearly that the ' Hermann Stellung ' must be held at all costs. 

" Reason — if the ' Hermann Stellung ' is held there are good prospects of carrj-ing 
on peace negotiations, or, as the case may be, of arranging an armistice with the enemy. 

" If, on the other hand, the ' Hermann Stellung ' is not held peace in the near future "is 
out of the question." 

G O 



226 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY [October 18TU 

Sir Henry Rawlinson issued orders on the evening of October 17th 

for the attack to be continued next day. The first objective given was 

The army orders for practically the same as the second objective of the 17th, 

the attack on October while the second objective included Wassigny, Mazing- 

18th hien, Bazuel, and the line of the Richemont River. 

Having captured this line, divisions were to exploit to the Sambre and 

Oise Canal. 

Instructions were also received from General Headquarters on 

October 17th ordering the Fourth, Third, and First Armies to be ready 

to carry out a general attack about October 21st, in 

GeS'neJdquStera cO'Operation with the First French Army, with a view 

to securing the line of the Sambre and Oise Canal, the 

western edge of the Mormal Forest, Ghissignies, Ruesnes, Querenaing, and 

up to the Scheldt (Escaut). 

The attack ordered by the Army Commander was carried out on Octo- 
ber 18th. On the IX Corps front, the 46th Division held the line from its 
October 18th ; the junction with the French near the Forester's House 
attack of the IX to where it joined up with the 1st Division about 
Corps 7Q0 yards east of Andigny-les-Fermes. The 1st 

Division covered the remainder of the corps front with the 1st and 
2nd Brigades in line, the inter-brigade botmdary being the line of the 
railway ; the 3rd Brigade was in reserve in the valley immediately west 
of La Vallee Mulatre. The 6th Division was in corps reserve behind 
the 1st Division. The 46th Division was to maintain touch between the 
left of the French advance and the right of the 1st Division, which was to 
carry out the main attack, until Wassigny was captured, when it would be 
" squeezed out " and go into reserve. The hour at which the attack was 
to be resumed by the IX Corps on the 18th was left to be decided by Sir 
Walter Braithwaite with the II American Corps, as the 30th American 
Division was to attack in conjunction with the 1st Division. It was 
finally decided that the 1st Division should attack at 11.30 a.m. 

When the attack was launched the 126th French Division made such 
good progress through the Andigny Forest that, together with the 137th 
Brigade, which had taken over the whole front of the 46th Division, it com- 
pletely cleared the forest during the afternoon. The attack of the 1st Division, 
which employed the 1st Brigade on the right and the 3rd Brigade on the 
left,i was completely successful, and Wassigny and the line of the road from 
Wassigny cemetery to Ribeauville were captured. The 1st Black Watch 
was on the right, while the 2nd Welsh, the 1st South Wales Borderers, and 
the 1st Gloucestershire continued the line northwards. Shortly after night- 
fall the 1st Black Watch, which had captured Wassigny, gained touch with 
the 126th French Division at Blocus d'en Bas south-east of Wassigny, thus 
" squeezing out " the 46th Division, which then passed into corps reserve. 

In the north the 1st Gloucestershire maintained touch with the 30th 
American Division during the day, and in the evening pushed into 
Ribeauville with the Americans. In spite of the close nature of the 
country very useful reconnaissance work was done during the day by two 

' The 3rd Brigade passed through the 2nd Brigade, which was holding the Una, before 
" zero." 



October 18THJ THE BATTLE OF THE SELLE 227 

squadrons of the Royal Scots Greys, one of which was attached to the 
1st and one to the 46th Division. 

The opposition offered by the enemy throughout the day was con- 
siderably less than on the 17th, although our infantry had no tanks to 
assist them. This was due, no doubt, to the heavy losses he had sustained, 
and to the disorganisation of his units.^ By the evening of October 18th 
the IX Corps had captured the objectives allotted to it in the face of 
weakening opposition, and was preparing to exploit its successes on the 
following morning. 

The attack of the II American Corps was arranged so as to syn- 
chronise with the attacks of the corps on its flanks, hence the 60th Brigade 
of the 30th Division on the right commenced its attack 
The attack of the n ^^ conjunction with the 1st Division at 11.30 a.m., 
American Corps ^j^.^^ ^^^ ^^^^^ ^^^ ^^^^^ Regiments of the 27th 

Division attacked at 5.30 a.m. in conjunction with the 50th Division. 
The objectives of the 30th Division included the villages of Ribeauville 
and Mazinghien, while the Jonc de Mar Farm and the line of the Jonc de 
Mer stream were to be taken by the 27th Division. 

The fighting in this part of the field was severe throughout the day. 
The infantry had no tanks to assist them, and, consequently, slow progress 
was made along the whole corps front. The troops of the 119th Regiment 
of the 30th American Division captured the village of Ribeauville in touch 
with the left of the 1st Division, and Mazinghien was entered by the 
American troops later in the evening, its capture being completed during the 
night of the 18th and the early morning of the 19th. Considerable opposition 
was also offered by the enemy at Jonc de Mer Farm, but this was captured 
about 2.45 p.m. by the 27th American Division, and the line was pushed 
forward soon afterwards to the Jonc de Mer stream. La Roux Farm, 
however, at the junction of the American and XIII Corps, remained in the 
hands of the enemy until captured by an enveloping movement from the 
north-east, carried out by troops of the 75th Brigade, temporarily attached 
to the 50th Division. By nightfall the II American Corps had captured 
all its objectives. 

The 50th Division had on the evening of October 17th made arrange- 
ments for continuing the attack on the 18th ; this was to be carried out 
The preparations for ^^ ^wo phases. The first phase had as its objective 
the attack o£ the the ridge 2,000 yards east of the Ai'bre Guernon- 
xm Corps Lg Cateau road, which had been its second objective on 

the 17th. This was to be captm-edby an attack laimched at 5.30 a.m., and 
was to be carried out by the three groups into which the 50th Division had 
been temporarily divided.- The second phase, timed to begin at 8.30 a.m., 
had as its objective Bazuel and the approximate Une of the Bazuel- 
Baillon Farm road, that is the third objective of the 17th. This task was 
allotted to the 75th Brigade of the 25th Division, which for this 
operation remained vmder the orders of the 50th Division. 

' Portions of the ISth Reserve, 22nd Reserve, 24th, 29th, and 221st Divisions opposed the 
advance of the IX Corps. Of these the 22nd Reserve, 29th, and 221st Divisions had just arrived 
a nd were relieving exhausted divisions. 

- See page 220. 



228 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY [October i 8th 

The 66th Division was ordered to synchronise its attack with that 
of the 50th Division, and to swing forward its right on to the top of the 
ridge east of Le Cateau, at the same time clearing the Faubourg de 
Landrecies of the enemy. No tanks were available for the operations of 
the XIII Corps, but the whole attack was to be covered with barrages 
similar to those of the preceding day. 

At 5.30 a.m. the attack of the 50th Division was launched and was 
most successful from the outset. The first objective, the ridge west of 
Bazuel, was captured by the three groups of the division 
The attack o! the without much opposition, and touch was established 
50th and 66th Divuions ^.^^ ^^^ ^Tth American Division. A party of the 2nd 
Royal Dublin Fusiliers, over-running their objective, even penetrated into 
Bazuel and captured a few prisoners. Here, a daring individual exploit 
by Sergeant Ciu-tis of this battalion put out of action the teams of two 
hostile machine-guns, and resulted in the capture of four other machine- 
guns with their crews. ^ On the left some difficulty was experienced at the 
railway triangle, where fighting had continued throughout the night, 
and which was not completely cleared before " zero." 

After the capture of the first objective, the 75th Brigade " leap- 
frogged " the troops of the 50th Division about 8.45 a.m. and succeeded 
in establishing itself on the western slopes of the ridge, at the northern 
end of which stands Bazuel. Its right was, however, not in touch with the 
left of the 27th American Division, which was held up by a strong point 
at La Roux Farm. Seeing this, the commander of the 75th Brigade at 
once took steps to attack this post from the north-east, and captured it 
by 3 p.m., whereupon the American left s\vung forward into line. About 
5 p.m. the 75th Brigade advanced and captured Bazuel, together with a 
9-2-inch gun and a complete battery of 4-2-inch howitzers, whose teams 
had just arrived to remove the guns. Posts were then established east 
and north-east of the village. 

Meanwhile, on the left, parties of the left group of the 50th Division, 
after clearing up the whole of the railway triangle, fought their way slowly 
up the railway and on to the Le Cateau-Pommereuil road. Here they 
gained touch with the 198th Brigade of the 66th Division, which had secured 
the ridge lying between Le Cateau and the Richemont River. 

At the close of the day, therefore, the XIII Corps had gained all its 
objectives, and had pushed patrols forward of this line. The battle of 
the Selle, which was at an end so far as the XIII Corps was concerned, 
had resulted in the capture, by six brigades of this corps, of a carefully 
prepared and strongly garrisoned position on a front of 7,000 yards, the 
greater part of which was protected by a difficult obstacle. 

All objectives allotted for the day having been captured early in 
the evening, and the resistance of the enemy having been broken, orders 
were issued by Sir Henry Rawlinson, late on October 
o^t r*°i9th 'i^^^^, for the troops to advance to the line of exploita- 
tion given in the orders for the attack on October 17th. 
This line ran from the Arrouaise Farm, east of Wassigny, north-eastwards 
to the Sambre and Oise Canal near La Laurette, thence along the canal 

' See Appendix E, No. 15. 




1-1 

< 
z 
<; 
o 

w 

c/j 



Q 

< 

W 
OS 
CQ 

< 
w 

H 

O 
Z 

s 

O 

o 
►J 
« 

> 

o 

a 
z 

D 
O 

u 

X 

u 






3 



October 19th] THE BATTLE OF THE SELLE 229 

to Catillon, and from there, along the Catillon-Bazuel road and the 
Richemont River, to Montay ; on the XIII Corps front this hne had ah-eady 
been reached. In view of the severe defeat the enemy had suffered on 
the 17th and 18th, it was considered extremely probable that he would 
retire across the Sambre and Oise Canal during the night, especially as 
the result of the fighting on the front of the First French Army had been 
very successful. During the 18th the French had gained a line running 
east of Aisonville, Grougis, and Andigny Forest, and had captured over 
1,000 prisoners. 

The advance on October 19th, on the IX Corps front, was continued 
at 5.30 a.m. by the 1st Division, the enemy offering little opposition ; 
he had, as was anticipated, withdrawn the greater part of his troops 
beyond the Sambre and Oise Canal. By noon the whole of Wassigny was 
finally cleared, and our troops entered Rejet de Beaulicu, the Frencla on 
our right occupying Tupigny and Hannappes. By nightfall the IX Corps 
had reached the line of the Oisy-Rejet de Beaulieu road, overlooking the 
canal, and was in touch with the French at Oisy and with the Americans 
north of Rejet de Beaulieu. Every attempt, however, to occupy the 
western bank of the Sambre and Oise Canal was met with heavy 
machine-gun fire from the eastern bank, and hostile artillery fire consider- 
ably increased during the day. 

The II American Corps advanced at the same time as the IX Corps 
and, meeting with little opposition, occupied the high ground north-east of 
Mazinghien with the 60th Brigade and two battalions of the 59th Brigade 
of the 30th Division, while the 53rd and 54th Brigades of the 27th 
Division held the line of the St. Maurice Ravine. Between Bazuel 
and Montay the line of the XIII Corps remained unchanged, the enemy 
occupying the slopes running down to the right bank of the Richemont 
River. 

The Battle of the Selle may be said to have terminated on the evening 

of October 19th, by which date the enemy had been driven by the First 

French Army and the Foinrth Army across the Sambre 

BSue'?th? Se ^^^ ^^^^ ^^^^^ between Tupigny and Rejet de 
Beaulieu. On the Fourth Army front this represented 
an advance of 9,000 yards on a front of over seven miles. This success 
had been achieved in the face of strong opposition, and in spite of the lu-gent 
appeals of the German High Command to its troops to prevent our 
passage of the Selle at all costs. Between the morning of the 17th and the 
evening of October 19th, 5,139 prisoners, including 143 officers, and 
60 guns were captured. The prisoners represented fourteen different 
divisions, eleven of which were fully engaged against the Fourth Army. 
Furthermore, our advance had brought the important railway junction 
of Aulnoye, which was only fourteen miles from Le Cateau, dangerously 
near the limit of our long-range guns. The southern flank of the enemy 
was, however, safe for the moment behind the Sambre and Oise Canal, 
and the centre of interest was for the time being transferred to the 
northern flank of the army. 

The Battle of the Selle had scarcely been concluded before a con- 
ference was held by the Army Commander at which the outline of the 



230 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY [Oct 19th 2(>rH 

next operation, foreshadowed on October 17th by the orders of the 
Commander-in-Chief, 1 was explained to Corps Commanders, and warning 
The army orders for Orders were issued as regards objectives and artillery 
the advance to be con- action. The forthcoming operation was to be a com- 
tinued on October 23rd bined attack carried out by the Fovuth, Third, and First 
British Armies, in which the Fourth Army was to establish a defensive 
flank facing east to protect the main operations which were to be carried 
out by the Third and First Armies, while further south the First French 
Army was to co-operate. October 23rd was the date given for the attack. 
The task given to the IX Corps by Sir Henry Rawlinson was to ad- 
vance to the line of the Sambre and Oise Canal, and capture Catillon, Ors, 
and the southern portion of L'Eveque Wood. The XIII Corps, in conjunction 
with the V Corps on its left, was at the same time to secure the line of the 
main Landrecies-Englefontaine road near the western edge of Mormal 
Forest, capturing Pommereuil, the northern part of L'Eveque Wood, 
Bousies, Fontaine-au-Bois, and Robersart. The northern boundary of the 
XIII Corps would run parallel to, and 500 yards south of, the Roman road 
from Montay to Englefontaine. An essential object of the operation was 
to secure artillery positions, from which the railway jiinction at Aulnoye 
could be kept under the fire of our long-range guns. 

Sir Henry Rawlinson laid especial stress on the necessity of the 
most energetic measures on the part of the engineers and pioneers in the 
repair of bridges, and in the clearance of the roads of obstacles, which the 
enemy had created by an extensive system of demolitions and road mines. 
These troops accomplished their task with the utmost diligence and zeal, 
and our ultimate success was in no small measure due to their continuous 
efforts, and to those of the Labour Companies. 

Corps Commanders were informed that the forthcoming attack would 
not be preceded by a preliminary bombardment, but that vigorous counter- 
battery work was to be maintained, while the enemy's 
Artillery and tanks communications were to be continually harassed, and 
special localities selected by corps were to be bombarded. 
Tanks were to be allotted : the 301st American Mark V Tank Battalion, 
which was now organised in three sections of five tanks each, to the IX 
Corps ; the 10th Mark V Tank Battalion, organised in three companies 
of eight tanks each, to the XIII Corps. These two tank battalions were 
to be under the orders of the 2nd Tank Brigade. 

As the Fourth Army was now covered along a considerable portion of 

its front by the Sambre and Oise Canal, it became possible to withdraw 

more troops into reserve. Orders were, therefore, 

■^^ "ti?J fr^t°* °' issued for the II American Corps, which had been 

considerably weakened during the last three days' 

fighting, to be withdrawn to rest, its front being taken over by the IX 

Corps. 2 On relief, the II American Corps went into reserve near Amiens 

' More detailed orders regarding objectives, barrages, etc., were issued on the 21st. Tlie 
warning orders issued by Sir Henry Rawlinson at the conference were intended to enable corps and 
divisions to go ahead with their preparations. See p. 226. 

^ The II American Corps had received practically no reinforcements to make good its 
casualties since it joined the Fourth Army at the end of September, and its fighting strength was, 
therefore, very reduced. 




a: 



< 
•J, 






a: 
f- 
'^. 

o 



q 



October 21STJ THE BATTLE OF THE SELLE 231 

to rest and refit. Since the end of September it had taken a very prominent 
and successful part in the operations of the Fourth Army. Its losses had 
been severe,^ but the spirit and keenness of all ranks had been maintained 
to the end, and it had thoroughly earned the praise it received from 
Sir Douglas Haig and Sir Henry Rawlinson. 

By October 21st the necessary reliefs were completed, and the army 
front, from Oisy exclusive to Montay, was held by the IX and XIII Corps ; 
the former with the 1st and 6th Divisions in line, and the 32nd and 
46th Divisions in reserve; the XIII Corps with the 25th and 18th 
Divisions in line, and the 50th and 66th Divisions in reserve. In view of 
the forthcoming operations certain alterations in boundaries became 
necessary. These changes did not affect the boundary between the 
Fotirth Army and the First French Army,; but the IX Corps took over about 
1,000 yards of front from the XIII Corps, while the V Corps of the Third 
Army also extended its front for a similar distance southwards. As the 
result of this arrangement the dividing line between the IX and XIII 
Corps ran north of Bazuel and then forward in a north-easterly direction 
through the centre of L'Eveque Wood to the Forester's House ; thence, 
it bent still more eastwards to Landrecies. 

The country, over which the advance had taken place since passing 
the St. Quentin Canal, was open, rolling down conspicuously devoid of cover, 
except for the villages and occasional woods, but, after 
The nature of the crossing the Selle, the character of the covmtry entirely 
changed. East of the Selle the slopes became more 
abrupt, small streams ran in the valleys, and there were large tracts of 
woodland. The pasture land between these tracts was cut up into innumer- 
able small enclosures bounded by high, thick hedges, which, while consti- 
tuting a serious obstacle to an infantry advance, at the same time afforded 
it excellent cover from view except at short ranges. Pommereuil, 
Bousies, Fontainc-au-Bois, and Robersart were straggling villages, the 
houses of which were of a poor type and of no great defensive value. 
Bousies alone contained buildings of considerable strength, including 
a large factory. L'Eveque Wood, covering an area of some four square 
miles, had been cleared of standing timber over three parts of its area, 
and the cleared spaces were covered with brambles and imdergro^\'th. 
Apart from the difficulty of maintaining touch and direction, the passage 
of this wood did not present any serious obstacle, except bv night or 
in a fog. 

Detailed orders for the forthcoming attack were issued on 

October 21st. On the right the IX Corps was to conform to the 

The detaUed orders advance of the XIII Corps, and, having captured 

for the attack on Catillon and Ors, was to establish a defensive flank 

October 23rd facing south-cast, along the line of the railway embank- 

(SeeMapi5) ^^^^^ which ran parallel to the Sambre 'and Oise 
Canal between Ors and the elbow in the canal 2,000 yards north-east 
of that village. To ensure the closest co-operation in the attack 
between the left of the Fourth and the right of the Third Army, careful 
timings were laid down as to the hoiu- at which the troops of the Fourth 

' The losses of the corps amounted to 11,500 since it came into the line in September. 



232 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY [Oct. 21si-22ni} 

Armv were to arrive at, and depart from, the various objectives. The 
barrage, which was to come down as usual 200 yards in front of the 
infantry " starting Hne," was to hft four minutes after " zero " and advance 
at the rate of 100 yards every four minutes, except through L'Eveque 
Wood, where special arrangements were to be made by the IX and XIII 
Corps. As the moon was full on the night of October 22nd, it was con- 
sidered that it would be an advantage to launch the attack during the 
night instead of at da^vn, as had been the custom hitherto, so that the 
unexpectedness of the hour would take the enemy by surprise. " Zero " 
for the Fourth Army was, therefore, fixed for 1.20 a.m., and, in order to 
synchronise the advance on the flanks of the V and XIII Corps, the 
V Corps agreed to start its troops at forty minutes after " zero," by which 
time the left of the XIII Corps would be up in line with them. 

Sir Walter Braithwaite's plan was to attack with two divisions in line, 
the 1st Division on the right, and the 6th Division on the left. The role 

of the 1st Division was to gain ground towards the 
The DC Corps' plan canal and to drive the enemy across it south of Catillon, 

while the 6th Division, conforming to the advance of 
the 25th Division, was to form an ever-lengthening defensive flank facing 
east, as that division gained ground. The 1st Division was to attack with 
the 2nd and 3rd Brigades in line and the 1st Brigade in reserve, and the 6th 
Division with the 18th and 71st Brigades in line and the 16th Brigade in 
reserve. 

To the XIII Corps were allotted five objectives. First, the Pom- 
mereuil-Forest road ; second, for the left division only, the Tilleuls 

Farm- Vert Baudet road ; third, a line along the north- 
The xm Corps' plan eastern edge of L'Eveque Wood and the western edge 

of Bousies ; fourth, the spur east of Malgarni and 
the ^-illage of Bousies ; fifth, from the spur east of Malgarni in a 
north-easterly direction to the junction of roads half a mile south- 
east of Fontaine-au-Bois, thence due north to the bend in the 
Landrecies-Englefontaine road, and along that road to the northern 
corps boimdary. 

Sir Thomas Morland arranged to attack with two divisions in line, 
the 25th Division on the right and the 18th Division on the left. The 
boimdary between the two divisions ran through Garde Mill, along the 
north-western edge of L'Eveque Wood, through Tilleuls Farm to Bout 
du Monde. 

On the 25th Division front the attack on the first objective was to 
be carried out by the 7th Brigade, with three battalions deployed in the 
front line. Owing to the weakness of the 7th Brigade, whose strength 
was imder 700 rifles, one battalion of the 75th Brigade was placed at 
its disposal; this battalion was only to be used if absolutely necessary 
for the capture of the first objective. Then, when the 18th Division 
pushed forward in order to outflank L'Eveque Wood from the north, one 
battalion of the 75th Brigade was to advance along the northern edge of 
the wood, establishing posts at certain points to protect the right flank of 
the 18th Division. The remaining battalion of the 75th Brigade was to 
clear the north-eastern portion of the wood and estabUsh itself on the 



October 23rd] THE BATTLE OF THE SELLE 233 

eastern edge of the wood. The 7th Brigade was to clear the western 
portion of the wood, using for this purpose, if it was still available, the 
battalion of the 75th Brigade which had been placed at its disposal. 

The 74th Brigade was in turn to move along the northern edge of 
L'Eveque Wood, deploy behind the battalion holding the eastern edge, 
and carry forward the attack on to the fourth and fifth objectives. 

In the case of the 18th Division, the capture of the first and second 
objectives, which included reaching the Tilleuls Farm-Vert Baudet road, 
was entrusted to the 53rd Brigade and the 54th Brigade, less the 6th 
Northamptonshire, while the 55th Brigade, with the 6th Northampton- 
shire attached, was to pass through and secure the third, fourth, and fifth 
objectives. 

Of the twenty-four tanks of the 10th Tank Battalion at the disposal 
of the XIII Corps for the operation, sixteen were allotted to the 18th 
Division, which in turn sub-allotted four tanks each to the 53rd and 
54th Brigades, and eight to the 55th Brigade. Eight tanks were allotted 
to the 25th Division, of Avhich four were to assist in the capture of 
Pommereuil. An extra machine-gun battalion was lent to each of the 18th 
and 25th Divisions for barrage work, from the divisions in reserve, in 
order that a large proportion of the machine-guns of the two attacking 
divisions might be kept mobile, ready to move forward with the infantry. 
Arrangements were also made for the advance of field artillery brigades 
and sections of 6-inch howitzers to support the attack in the later stages, 
and three sections of 6-inch guns were held in readiness to move forward 
to positions selected on the map, from which they could engage Aulnoye 
railway junction as soon as the situation permitted. 

On the south, when the IX Corps attacked, the enemy put down a 

heavy barrage mixed with gas, but this did not check the advance. On 

the right the 1st Division by 8 a.m. had reached the out- 

attSt/tS K Corps ^^irts of Catillon and was sending patrols into the 

village. More stubborn opposition was experienced 

by the 6th Division, and severe fighting took place before the Richemont 

River was crossed. No ground was gained without fighting, and, on one 

occasion, a party of our troops was surrounded and only hacked its way 

out after hand-to-hand fighting. A certain amount of progress was made 

through L'Eveque Wood, but the 6th Division was imable to keep abreast 

of the 25th Division, which had to form a defensive flank to the south. 

Little further advance was made on the IX Corps front that day, and, 

although patrols made their way to the banks of the Sambre and Oise 

Canal, Catillon and Ors remained in the possession of the enemy. 

The troops of the XIII Corps, after a very well organised night march, 

reached their assembly positions without a hitch. At 1.20 a.m. the attack 

started in bright moonlight. Considerable opposition 

"^^CT??oi2 **** ^^^^ experienced from the mills and farms along the 

banks of the Richemont River, but this was gradually 

overcome, the garrisons being killed or taken prisoner. Unfortunately 

several machine-gun posts were passed by unnoticed by the leading troops, 

and these gave trouble to the troops detailed for the attack on the more 

distant objectives as they moved forward. 

H n 



234 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY [October 23rd 

On the front of the 25th Division the three battalions of the 7th 
Brigade led the attack, with the l/8th Royal Warwickshire of the 75th 

Brigade in support. The heavy mist made it difficult to 
The 25th Division keep direction, and this caused a certain loss of cohesion 

among the attacking troops ; the first objective was, how- 
ever, gained without much difficulty. Then began the arduous task of clear- 
ing the northern half of L'Eveque Wood,^ but, in spite of the hostile resist- 
ance and the thick undergrowth, this was successfully accomplished, except 
on the right, where the 6th Division had not been able to keep pace with 
the advance of the 25th Division ; a defensive flank was, therefore, estab- 
lished through the wood along the line of the Bazuel-Malgarni road. 
Meanwhile the right flank of the 18th Division was protected by the l/Sth 
Worcestershire, of the 75th Brigade, which had moved along the northern 
edge of the wood and captiu-ed Tilleuls Farm and a battery of 4-2-inch 
howitzers. The 74th Brigade, which was to attack the foiui:h and fifth 
objectives, advanced from its assembly position on the Le Cateau— Busigny 
road behind the 75th and 7th Brigades. Its advance was delayed by a 
party of the enemy in a sunken road near Garde Mill, which had been 
missed by the artillery, and had been passed by the leading troops owing to 
there being a gap between the left of the 25th Division and the right of the 
18th Division. The enemy was driven from this locality after some 
fighting, but so much time had been lost that the leading troops of the 
brigade did not reach Pommereuil until 10.30 a.m. The 74th Brigade 
then moved along the northern edge of L'Eveque Wood, and endeavoured 
to deploy along the eastern outskirts of the wood for the attack on the 
fourth and fifth objectives. One battalion, however, the 9th Yorkshire, 
became involved in the fighting for the clearing of the wood ; also it was 
found that the eastern exits from the wood were raked by the enemy's 
fire from the Hermann Stellung II. This fine ran parallel to the road 
running south-east from Bousies near the eastern boundary of the wood, 
and, although the trenches were not completed, the wire in front of it was 
very strong. It soon became obvious that the brigade could not be got 
into position before dark, and the attack was accordingly postponed until 
the following day. 

The 18th Division attacked with the 53rd Brigade on the right and 
the 54th Brigade, less one battalion, on the left. The 53rd Brigade 

advanced with the 7th Royal West Kent on the right, the 

""* ^attec?^'°° '^^^^ '^^^^^ °^ *^^ ^^^*' ^"^ *^^ ^*^ ^°>'^^ Berkshire 
in support. The Richemont River was crossed, and a 

dashing attack by a company of the 7th Royal West Kent secured Garde 

Mill together with 70 prisoners. The 7th Royal W^est Kent reached 

the first objective after overcoming all opposition, but the 10th Essex 

was held up by machine-gun fire when about 300 yards from the objective. 

The 8th Royal Berkshire, which was to " leap-frog " the leading battalions 

on the first objective, was checked when crossing the Richemont River 

by fire from a machine-gun post that the leading troops had missed, and 

the left company was held up for some time. The battalion then went on, 

' During the fighting, Private Francis Miles, l/5th Gloucestershire, by his courage and initiative 
was responsible for the capture of 16 machine-guns and 50 prisoners See Appendix E, No. 36. 



October 23rd] THE BATTLE OF THE SELLE 235 

but became involved in the check sustained by the 10th Essex, and no 
progress could be made until the arrival on the left of the 54th Brigade 
with tanks turned the enemy's position and allowed the advance to be 
resumed. The 8th Royal Berkshire then secured the second objective, 
and established touch with the 25th Division on the right and with the 
54th Brigade on the left. 

The attack on the 54th Brigade front was led by the 2nd Bedfordshire. 
At the outset considerable resistance was encountered, and many prisoners 
were captured in the sunken roads north-east of Richemont Mill, which 
had been subjected to the enfilade fire of forty machine-guns from a 
position east of Le Cateau. The attack was carried on with fine deter- 
mination, and White Springs was captiired after stubborn fighting. The 
battalion then established itself on a track which it took to be the first 
objective, but was in reality 500 yards short of it. Here, the 11th Royal 
Fusiliers passed through and, advancing with great dash, captured eleven 
guns. One company went right through to the second objective, but, 
as both flanks were unsupported, it had to withdraw and come into line 
with the remainder of the battalion which had been checked by machine- 
gun fire. At 7.30 a.m., however, the 7th The Buffs of the 55th Brigade 
came up, and passed through the 11th Royal Fusiliers. 

The 55th Brigade, with the 8th East Surrey and the 7th The Buffs 
leading, followed up the 54th Brigade so closely that it became in- 
volved in the fighting west of the second objective. The 8th East 
Surrey then captured Fayt Farm, and the 7th The Buffs Epinette 
Farm. As a result of this fighting these battalions were forty minutes 
behind schedule time in beginning the attack on the third objective. 
Determined resistance was encotmtered at Bousies, where the enemy had 
posts and machine-gun nests among the hedges which surrounded and 
intersected the village, and the opposition had to be beaten down yard by 
yard before the enemy, who lost heavily, was driven out of the village about 
8 p.m. As touch with the brigade of the V Corps on the left had been 
lost, and on account of the darkness, it was found impossible to continue 
the advance on the remaining objectives, and a further attack was postponed 
until the following morning. The day had been a very successful one 
for the 25th and 18th Divisions, the latter division had made an advance 
of 8,000 yards and could claim the capture of 53 guns. 

The day on the whole was not a happy one for the tanks. Owing 

to the indifferent light in the early stages of the attack a large number 

were "ditched" in passing over comparatively insig- 

^* *"t^°ks°^ ^^^ nificant obstacles, the drivers being unable to see 

clearly what was in front of them. Much valuable 

work, however, was done by the tanks of the 10th Tank Battalion in 

the heavy fighting in Bousies. 

., , ,. At the end of the day the line held by our troops 

day's flrhtin? ; army ^^^ from the little hamlet of La Louviere, past Catillon 

orders issued for the Halt, along the western outskirts of Ors, through 

attack to be continued L'Eveque Wood to within 500 yards of Malgarni, and 

thence east and north of Bousies to the south-eastern edge 

of Vendegies Wood. As a result of the fighting 849 prisoners, including 



236 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY [October 24th 

23 officers, were captured, of the 8th, 17th Reserve, 44th Reserve, 121st, 
204th, and 243rd Divisions, and the 2nd CycHst Brigade. Of these Divisions 
the 8th and 204th were in the act of reheving the 44th Reserve and 121st 
Divisions in the Bousies and Catillon areas respectively. It was resolved 
to give the enemy no respite, and both corps were ordered to resume the 
attack next morning at 4 a.m. for the purpose of securing the remaining 
objectives. 

On the right of the IX Corps the 1st Division confined itself to 

patrolling the banks of the canal and the outskirts of Catillon. At the 

same time the 6th Division gained a footing in Ors and 

October 24th ; the IX cleared the southern part of L'Eveque Wood. A few 

Corps attack . n ij j u -x 

prisoners and some field guns and howitzers were cap- 
tured. The 6th Division was still unable to reach its final objective on the 
extreme left flank, but it made sufficient progress in L'Eveque Wood to 
allow of the 25th Division withdrawing its defensive flank. 

The 74th Brigade, to which was attached the l/8th Worcestershire 

of the 75th Brigade, carried on the attack of the 25th Division. The 

troops formed up in the eastern outskirts of L'Eveque 

The xm Corps attack Wood, but, as soon as they emerged into the open, they 

were met with heavy fire from the enemy's position 

west of Malgarni.i This position was carried in spite of the strong wire, 

and Malgarni was captured after severe hand-to-hand fighting in the 

orchards and houses. Fontaine-au-Bois was then occupied, and by 12 noon 

the 74th Brigade had established itself on the fifth and final objective. 

Patrols, which were sent out, found the enemy holding the line of the 

Landrecies-Englefontaine road in strength, and all attempts to dislodge 

him failed. 

The 18th Division met with considerable difficulties. No tanks were 
available for the operation, and the 55th and 54th Brigades, which carried 
out the attack, were not able to keep up with the barrage on account of 
the enclosed and thickly-hedged country through which they had to pass. 
Along the whole front the enemy opposed our advance with great tenacity, 
and, in the wired defences amidst the hedges and orchards between 
Bousies and Robersart, the fighting was exceptionally strenuous and the 
advance slow. North-west of Robersart our troops were checked by 
five hostile machine-guns posted on the ridge on which stands Renuart 
Farm. Lieut. William Hedges of the 6th Northamptonshire promptly 
proceeded up the hill under cover, accompanied by a sergeant, and followed 
at some considerable distance by a Lewis gun section. Having gone as 
far as he could under cover, Lieut. Hedges dashed forward, killed the 
first enemy machine-gvmner, and took two others prisoner. He then worked 
his way along the crest of the hill and served three other machine-gun 
posts in the same fashion. This dashing exploit broke down the enemy's 
resistance at this point and enabled our line to go forward.^ Ultimately, 
after dogged fighting, our men pushed into Robersart, which was cleared 
by the end of the day. A German garrison, which held out in Renuart 
Farm, was outflanked by three companies of the 6th Northamptonshire, 
while the remaining company engaged the enemy's attention in front. 

' Hermann Stellung II. ^ gee Appendix E, No. 24. 







» 
O 

< 

S 
a: 

o 



z 

< 






z 

o 

» 



a: 



Z 



o 



October 25TH-31 ST] THE BATTLE OF THE SELLE 237 

Some progress was made east of Robersart and Renuart Farm, but the 
final objective on the hne of the main Landrecies-Englefontaine road was 
held in force by the enemy. 

Thus, after two days' strenuous fighting, ^ the line of the final 

objective had been gained on most of the army front. The greater part 

The result of the ^^ CatiUon and Ors were still, however, held by the 

fighting on the 2Zzi enemy as well as the south-east corner of L'Eveque 

and 24th Wood, while the 18th Division held a line just short of 

the main Landrecies-Englefontaine road. Eight German Divisions and a 

Cyclist Brigade had been defeated, and 27 officers, 1,213 other ranks, and 

66 guns had been captured. In addition, the Aulnoye railway junction, 

so important to the enemy for movement of transport, troops, and supplies, 

was now within range of our 6-inch guns. 

After the fighting of the 23rd and 24th there was a lull, dvu-ing which 
the troops were rested and reorganised, while preparations were at once 
begun for a resumption of the offensive. Infantry 
'o°t°b ""ss^th"!^ 31^ action imtil the end of the month was confined chiefly to 
active patrolling, but on October 26th the 18th Division, 
by throwing forward its left flank, co-operated ^^^th an attack of the V 
Corps, which resulted in the capture of Englefontaine and the establish- 
ment of our line from Petit Planty to the north-east corner of Engle- 
fontaine. On the left of the IX Corps a company of the 1st The Buffs 
of the 6th Division attacked and, after a first failure, secured part 
of the Happegarbes spur, which it held against the enemy's counter- 
attacks until relieved. On October 29th the 1st Division established 
itself along the western bank of the Sambre and Oise Canal from Oisy to 
the south of Catillon. 

North and south of the Fourth Army the experiences of the enemy 
had been no more encouraging for him. In Flanders, by the end of Octo- 
The progress north and ^er, the enemy had been forced back to the line of the 
south of the Fourth Scheldt, and the Third and First Armies had advanced 
Army q^^. ij^g ^yell to the north and east of the Le Quesnoy- 

Valenciennes railway. To the south the French had made good pro- 
gress, had crossed the Serre and Peron rivers, and had reached the 
southern bank of the Oise near Guise. 

In front of the Fourth Army the enemy was now making a stand on 
the line of the Sambre and Oise Canal and along the western edge of 
A summary of the Mormal Forest. His troops, however, were depressed 
situation on by continuous defeat and exhausted by incessant 

October 31st fighting, while the moral of our own men was magnificent. 
The general attack was, therefore, only delayed by the Commander-in- 
Chief until such time as the preparations should be complete. One 
fresh, and five fairly fresh German divisions were transferred to other 
parts of the front from in front of the Fourth Army, and the 221st Division, 
which had been engaged three times by the Fourth Army, was now dis- 
banded. Hence the enemy's reserves on the Fourth Army front were 
reduced by seven divisions. At the end of October it was estimated that 

> The strong resistance experienced by the XIII Corps in the Bousies area was due to the 
fact that the enemy had been reinforced here by the 30th and 58th Divisions. 



238 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY [October 31st 

the Fourth Army was opposed by the equivalent of seven divisions, to- 
gether with portions both of the Cychst Brigade and the Jager Division ; 
all these divisions, however, were believed to be exhausted and were sup- 
ported only by three other equally exhausted divisions. It was believed 
that in the back areas the enemy had thirteen divisions at his disposal, 
of which the large majority had been recently withdrawn from the fighting 
and had suffered heavy casualties. On the whole of the western front, 
there was only one German division which had been resting for one month. 
Whatever might be his ultimate intentions, it was essential for the 
enemy to maintain the line of the Sambre and Oise Canal as long as 
possible, and the importance of denying the passage of the canal to our 
troops was impressed by him on all ranks of his army.^ At the same 
time, aeroplane reconnaissance made it clear that the Germans were 
removing aerodromes and destroying railways, and making preparations 
for a further retirement. If the passage of the Sambre and Oise Canal 
could be forced before their preparations for an orderly retirement could 
be completed, they must inevitably suffer disaster. 

• The following Army Order, issued by the Crown Prince to the XVIII German Army, which 
was captured about October 29th, shows the intentions of the enemy : — 

" The defence of the Canal position is of great strategical importance for the Army 
Group front. I reckon absolutely on the Army holding its new positions at all costs. 

" The reserves at the Army's disposal should be engaged and utilised with a view to 
this. It must be clearly understood by all commanding officers that only a stubborn resistance 
will induce the enemy to discontinue his attack. Again I order that the canal front be 
strongly reinforced with machine-gun imits. I insist upon no further withdrawal being 
undertaken without my authority. 

" (Sd.) WiLHELM, Crown Prince. 
" The above is to be issued down to Regiments. 

" (Sd.) BuBKNEB, Chief of Staff." 



CHAPTER XII 

THE CROSSING OF THE SAMBRE AND OISE CANAL, AND THE EVENTS 
LEADING UP TO THE ARMISTICE, NOVEMBER IST TO llTH 

Maps 1, 2, 16, and 17 

The situation prior to the resumption of the Allied offensive — The orders from General Head- 
quarters for a general advance — The preliminary operations by the IX Corps — The general 
plan for the attack on November 4th — The nature of the countrj' ; the Sambre and Oise 
Canal — The Mormal Forest — The country east of the Sambre and Oise Canal — 
The objectives of the attack — The IX Corps plan of attack — The XIII Corps plan 
of attack — The action of the artillery — The preparations for bridging the canal — The allot- 
ment of tanks — The assembly — November 4th ; the IX Corps ; the attack of the 1st Division ; 
the crossing of the canal by the 2nd Brigade — The 1st Brigade crossing — The capture of 
CatUlon by the 3rd Brigade — The further advance of the 1st Division — The result of the 
fighting by the 1st Division — The attack of the 32nd Division ; the 14th Brigade force a 
crossing — Thetemporary check to the 96th Brigade — The capture of the Happegarbes spur — 
The further advance of the 32nd Division — The XIII Corps operations — The capture of 
Landrecies by the 25th Division — The 50th Division attack through Mormal Forest — The 
attack by the 18th Division — The armoured cars — The result of the fighting on November 4th 
— The pursuit ; November 5th and 6th ; the events on the IX Corps front — The events on 
the XIII Corps front — The pursuit continued on November 7th, 8th, and 9th — The IX Corps — 
The XIII Corps — The question of supply — BetheU's Force — The frontier of France reached 
on November 10th — The Armistice, 11 a.m., November 11th. 

By the end of October the defeat of Germany appeared inevitable. 

In a long series of almost continuous battles her armies had been defeated 

The situation prior to with heavy losses in men and material, and it was 

the resumption oi the becoming increasingly difficult for the German High 

Allied offensive Command to withdraw the troops in good order. 

Menaced by overwhelming defeat, German soldiers were no longer available 

to assist their Allies in other theatres of war ; Turkey and Bulgaria had 

surrendered to the Allies, while Austria, bankrupt of leaders, plan, and 

organisation, was incapable of carr\'ing on the war.^ 

Within Germany itself the soaring hopes, aroused by the brilliant 
start of the March offensive, had given place to profound depression, as 
each week recorded a fresh withdrawal of the German forces. Internal 
conditions had grown desperate, and dreams of victory had given place 
to a sense of the complete futility of prosecuting a profitless war. The 
leaders of the nation were no longer trusted, and social agitators were 
given a sympathetic hearing. 

Thus, while each military disaster made it difficult for the German 

' Bulgaria signed an Armistice on September 29th, Turkey on October 3l8t, and Austria on 
November 3rd. 

S38 



240 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY [Nov 1st 2nd 

leaders to control the army, it was still more difficult to control the forces 
within Germany itself. Complete disaster could only be averted if the 
defeated armies could be withdrawn behind a line capable of checking 
the Allies dming the winter months. Then it might be possible for 
Germany to bargain with the Allies, and arrange an armistice, the terms 
of which would allow her a voice in the settlement on more or less equal 
terms. It was, however, within the power of the Allied forces to shatter 
this last hope, if full use was made by Marshal Foch and Sir Douglas 
Haig of the enormous moral and strategic advantages which they had 
gained. An immediate attack upon the enemy's centre, the vital part of his 
line upon which depended the safety of his communications in the north 
and south, would anticipate his contemplated and inevitable withdrawal, 
and, if successful, would convert that withdrawal into a rout. 

With this object orders were issued by Sir Douglas Haig on October 
29th for the Fourth. Third, and First Armies to carry out a concerted 
The orders from attack in the general direction of Maubeuge and Mons, 
General Headquarters while on the right of the Foixrth Army, the First French 
for a general advance Army would co-operatc by pushing forward in the direc- 
tion of La Capelle. 

A preliminary operation to secure Valenciennes was necessary before 
the general attack could be made, and this was successfully accomplished 
by the Third and First Armies by November 2nd. This victory compelled 
the enemy to withdraw on the Le Quesnoy-Valenciennes front, and 
rendered the position of his forces in the Tovu'nai salient precarious, as 
our progress south of it had now turned the line of the Scheldt. 

Preliminary operations were also undertaken by the Fourth Army 

in preparation for the general attack. The front of the Fourth Army 

The preliminary opera- ^^ ^^^e end of October extended from the Sambre and 

tions by the IX Corps Oise Canal, north of Oisy, to its junction with the Third 

(see Map 17) Army south of Englefontaine ; of this the IX Corps 

held from the southern army boundary to the south-east corner of 
L'Eveque Wood, a front of some nine miles, while the XIII Corps held 
from L'Eveque Wood, to the junction with the Third Army, a distance of 
about six miles. 

Before making any attempt to force the passage of the Sambre and 
Oise Canal it was necessary to secure complete control of all ground on 
its western bank. The chief points of tactical importance still held by the 
enemy west of the canal were Catillon, Le Donjon, Ors, and the 
Happegarbes spur south-west of Landrecies. Vigorous patrolling was 
therefore carried out by the IX Corps on November 1st, and by 
November 2nd the village of Ors and the whole western bank, from Ors to 
the elbow in the canal fvu1:her north, had been cleared of the enemy. 
Further south, the enemy still retained Catillon and the circular strong 
point known as Le Donjon. 

The most important point, however, held by the enemy on the western 
bank was the Happegarbes spur, which commanded the canal as 
far south as Catillon and of which the 32nd Division only held a part.^ 

' The 32nd Division relieved the 6th Division on the left of the IX Corps front on the night 
of October 30th. 




w 
Q 



< 

O 

O 
> 

M 
03 

w 

M 
X 
H 

O 

2 

O 

a 

CO 

< 

< 

w 

C/3 



Q 
Z 
< 

<: 

CO 

W 



November IST-SRDj THE LAST PHASE 241 

In order to secure the whole of the spur it was attacked at 6 a.m. on 
November 2nd by the 15th Lancashire FusiHers of the 96th Brigade, 
assisted by three tanks of the 10th Mark V Tank BattaUon. After heavy 
fighting the spur was captured, together with 60 prisoners of the 6th 
battahon of the 2nd Cyclist Brigade. ^ Three hours later the position 
was counter-attacked by the enemy from the north-east ; this attack was 
repulsed, but a second and stronger counter-attack, preceded by a violent 
bombardment in which a large quantity of gas shell was used, was carried 
out by the 6th Battalion reinforced by the 4th Battalion of Cyclists, and 
succeeded in forcing our men off the spur. A second attack by the loth 
Lancashire Fusiliers, reinforced by two companies of the 16th Lancashire 
Fusiliers, regained possession of the spur on the morning of November 
3rd. Two determined counter-attacks were again delivered by the enemy. 
The first was successfully beaten off, but a second was delivered by a strong 
force, consisting of the two Cyclist battalions reinforced by a regiment 
of the 1st Guard Reserve Division. Fighting of the most obstinate and 
bitter description took place, and at one time the battalion headquarters 
of the 15th Lancashire Fusiliers was almost surrounded. The gallant 
resistance of the battalion staff, however, kept the enemy at bay until 
night fell, when, owing to the casualties sustained, it was deemed advisable 
to withdraw to the " starting line." 

It was now clear that, while the capture of the spiu- presented no 
great difficvdties to resolute troops, its retention was a matter of considerable 
difficulty. Consequently, it was decided to abandon the idea of securing 
this ground before the main attack was launched, as it was considered 
that in a general advance the enemy would not be in a position to deliver 
local counter-attacks in such strength as he did on November 2nd 
and 3rd.2 

These operations had prepared the way for the general attack which 

was to take place, on November 4th. The attack of the British Armies 

The general plan for ^^^^ ^^ ^e delivered on a frontage of about thirty miles, 

the attack on Novem- from the Sambre and Oise Canal, immediately north of 

ber 4th Oisy, to Valenciennes, and was to be extended to the 

south of Oisy for another twenty miles by the French. The general fine of 

advance of the Fovirth Army, on a frontage of about fifteen miles, was 

to be due cast. 

The nature of the country over which the advance was to be made 

was difficult. On the right there was the obstacle of the Sambre and 

The nature of the ^ise Canal which had to be crossed at the outset. 

country ; the Sambre This canal runs from La Fere by Mont D'Origny, 

and Oise Canal Vadencourt, and Etreux to Landrecies. From La Fere 

to Vadencourt it follows the course of the Oise, thence, swinging 

to the north near Etreux, it enters the Sambre valley near Oisy. At 

Landrecies the canal terminates and the canalised Sambre begins as a 

1 Both during this attack, and again on November 3rd and 4th, Sergeant Clarke, 15th 
Lancashire Fusiliers, displayed great gallantrj' and fine leadership. See Appendix E, No. 10. 

^ It is always a ditHcuIt question to decide whether a small preliminary operation of this 
description to capture some important tactical point is wise, or whether it is not better to include 
it in the general attack. Experience proves that, with few exceptions, it is better to wait for the 
general attack, when such points will be captured without difficulty. 

I I 



242 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY [November 1st-3rd 

separate waterway. The canal is of the ordinary type to be met with in 
France and Belgium and forms a considerable obstacle, being some seventy 
feet wide from bank to bank, and thirty-five to forty feet wide at water- 
level except at Lock No. 1, and at the locks at Catillon, Ors, and Landrecies, 
where it is seventeen feet wide. It contained at that time an average 
depth of six to eight feet of water and was nowhere fordable except at the 
bridges, which had been either demolished or prepared for demolition. 

In addition to the obstacle offered by the canal itself, the low ground 
on both sides of the canal had been inundated by the Germans and much 
of it had been transformed into swamp. In some places the water was 
only ankle deep, but, north and south of Ors, there were small streams 
parallel to the canal swollen to a width of about fifteen feet and a depth of 
two to three feet ; similar streams existed south of Catillon. Along 
each side of the canal between Oisy and Lock No. 1 there are wide 
reservoirs ; at their northern end they are more than twice the width of the 
canal, and at that time contained a fair depth of water, but they are 
narrower and shallower further south. South of Catillon the enemy had 
felled the trees along the western bank of the canal for the double purpose 
of improving his field of fire and of forming an abattis. 

Fvu-ther north the area west of the Mormal Forest is of a peculiarly 
intricate and enclosed natiu-e. The scattered and rambling villages of 
Les Etoquies, Happegarbes, Rosimbois, Preux-aux-Bois, 
The Mormal Forest and Hecq are surrounded by small orchards and pad- 
docks, enclosed by thick, almost impenetrable, hedges, 
which restricted the view and greatly increased the difficulties of main- 
taining direction. 

Mormal Forest itself covers an area of forty square miles, but much 
of it had been cut down for timber by the enemy during his occupation, 
and there were, therefore, numerous clearings ; in those portions which 
were untouched by the axe the undergrowth was very dense and hampered 
movement. A number of streams have their source in the forest and 
run through narrow channels with steep banks into the Scheldt and 
Sambre valleys. In the centre, surrounded by small pastures and 
orchards, is the village of Locquignol, on which the numerous roads and 
tracks, almost all of which are unmetalled, mostly converge. In addition, 
many light railway tracks had been constructed by the enemy in order 
to transport the felled timber. The whole forest offered great oppor- 
tunities for resolute defence. Owing to its size, density, and good interior 
communications it was capable of sheltering considerable forces, whilst 
its large expanse made it difficult for artillery to deal with effectively. 

The general configuration of the country, east of the Sambre and 
Oise Canal and south of Mormal Forest and the Sambre, consists of a series 
The country east of ^^ parallel valleys, through which run the tributaries 
the Sambre and Oise of the river Sambre, and which are separated by 
Canal ridges affording excellent successive positions for rear- 

guard action. The whole area was intersected by wire and hedges, and 
cavalry or infantry could make only slow progress off the roads, to which 
the artillery would be entirely confined for any considerable movements 
or changes of position. The landscape bore a striking resemblance to 



•^ 




o 

■St 






n 

■in 
2; 



November 1st 3rd] THE LAST PHASE 243 

that of a dairy-farming county in England. There was little or no 
cultivation, the fields being pasture land ; scattered farmsteads were 
frequent, and the villages, for the most part tucked away in the valleys, 
were of a very much better type than those to be fovmd in the Somme 
area before the war wrought its devastation. 

In the instructions issued to the IX and XIII Corps Sir Henry Rawlin- 

son laid down two main objectives to be secvired. The first, or red 

line, extended approximately due north and south 

"^^ ""Sack" °^ *''' ^^^^ east of Fcsmy to east of Landrecies, and thence 

northwards through the ^lormal Forest about 3,000 

yards from its western edge. The attainment of this objective would in 

the south carry the attacking troops well beyond the canal, and would 

enable the engineers to repair or erect bridges across it without fear of 

interference, thus facilitating the forward communications. 

The second objective, or line of exploitation, ran east of Cartignies, 
Dompierre, and St. Re my Chaussee (see Map 16). This was some 
three miles short of the general objective defined by the Commander- 
in-Chief, namely the Avesnes-Maubeuge road, and was considered to be 
the limit of penetration that could be reached before a halt would be 
necessary in order to reorganise and complete the communications. 

For the forcing of the Sambre and Oise Canal the IX Corps employed 

the 1st and 32nd Divisions on the right and left respectively. Although 

the attacks of both divisions were to be simultaneous, 

® attack^ ^'*° °' they were to be entirely independent as regards their 

detailed execution, each as it advanced arranging for 

the protection of its flanks, but establishing connection with the other 

immediately on crossing the canal and on the first objective (red line). The 

46th Division was concentrated in corps reserve with its head on the line 

of the Mazinghien-Bazuel road. Its role, after the attack was lamiched, 

was to follow closely behind the 1st Division with a view to relieving that 

division either on the first objective, or immediately afterwards ; the 

46th and 32nd Divisions would then continue the advance to the second 

objective. For the IX Corps attack Sir Walter Braithwaite gave the 

1st and 32nd Divisions two preliminary objectives before reaching the 

first objective laid down by the army. 

(1) The bridgehead or blue-dotted line, which ran on the front of 
the 1st Division from the bridge at Petit Cambrc'sis along the road to 
Hautreve, thence to the eastern outskirts of Catillon, and, on the front 
of the 32nd Division, from Catillon through Petit Versaille to La Folic. 

(2) The intermediate or blue line, which ran on the 1st Division 
front from the bridge at Petit Cambresis to La Groise, excluding Fcsmy 
and including Robelmetre, Grand Galop Farm, and Petit Galop Farm, 
and, on the 32nd Division front, from east of Mezieres to Petit Versaille, 
including Locquignol Farm. 

On the right Maj.-Gen. Strickland, commanding the 1st Division, 
which was holding a front of 7,000 yards from Oisy to north of Catillon, 
arranged for the 1st and 2nd Brigades to cross the canal south of Catillon 
under cover of a heavy barrage. This was to come down at " zero," 
simultaneously with a smoke screen which was to be put down imme- 



244 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY [November 1st-3rd 

diately east of the canal to conceal the infantry crossing.^ Each brigade 
was allotted one main crossing ; the 2nd Brigade at the Lock No. 1, 
about two miles south of Catillon, the 1st Brigade at the bend in the 
canal north-west of Bois I'Abbaye. Once a crossing had been effected, the 
1st and 2nd Brigades were to advance behind the creeping barrage and 
establish the bridgehead. There was to be a pause on the bridgehead line 
of one and a-half hours to allow time for artillery to move forward. The 
advance was then to be resumed to the intermediate line, from which, 
after fifteen minutes, the infantry on the flanks was to continue to move 
forward to the first army objective (red line). 

Concurrently with the attack of the 1st and 2nd Brigades, the 3rd 
Brigade was to clear Catillon from the south under cover of an enfilade 
artillery and machine-gun barrage, after which it was to establish a small 
bridgehead east of the canal until such time as touch was definitely estab- 
lished with the 32nd Division further cast. 

Maj.-Gen. Lambert, commanding the 32nd Division, arranged that 
the 14th Brigade should cross the canal just south of Ors, and the 96th 
Brigade immediately south of the elbow in the canal north of Ors. 
Success depended on obtaining complete superiority of fire over the 
enemy holding the eastern bank of the canal, and arrangements were made 
for the crossing of the infantry to be covered by a powerful artillery 
barrage and smoke screen similar to those employed in the case of the 
1st Division. After effecting a crossing the 14th and 96th Brigades 
were to reorganise before rencAving the advance to the bridgehead line 
under the creeping barrage. ^ No barrage was arranged beyond the bridge- 
head line for the further advance to the first army objective (red line), 
the arrangements for the necessary artillery support being left to the 
brigade commanders concerned. 

In view of the topographical features of the country south of the 
Sambre, offering as they did splendid opportunities for enfilade and oblique 
fire up the valleys which ran at right angles to the enemy's communi- 
cations, the IX Corps sited two of its heavy artillery brigades well forward 
in the XIII Corps area to enfilade these valleys, which the enemy would 
undoubtedly make use of for sheltering troops and guns. 

The task of the XIII Corps entailed an attack through the southern 

portion of Mormal Forest, the forcing of the canal crossings at Landrecies, 

and a total advance of approximately ten miles. Its 

^^^ ™uack' ^'*° fii'st objective corresponded with the first objective 

laid down by the army, while, between this and the 

second objective, an intermediate objective following the Maroilles- 

Hachette Farm-Locquignol road was allotted to the divisions. 

In view of the depleted strengths of his divisions and of the depth to 
which the advance was to be carried, Sir Thomas Morland decided to 
employ three divisions for the initial attack, each being on a comparatively 

* The barrage was to lift off the eastern bank of the canal at three minutes after " zero," 
and then advance towards the blue-dotted line. Smoke screens for both 1st and 32nd Divisions 
Wire made by No. 1 Special Company, R.E., with 4-inch Stokes Mortars. 

^ The barrage was to remain on the eastern bank of the canal for five minutes ; it was then 
to be lifted 300 yards and remain for thirty minutes, after which pause it was to advance at the 
rate of 100 yards every six minutes. 



•^ 







to 
D 

o 



■Ji 
o 



c 

a: 



^ Q 
z < 

o y 



^ z 
z 



X Z 

5 ^ 



z 

< 



il < 



November 3RD] THE LAST PHASE 245 

narrow front, with one division in support. On the right, the 25th Division 
was allotted the difficult task of forcing the passage of the canal opposite 
Landrecies, capturing that town, and pushing forward to the XIII Corps 
intermediate objective, which included the capture of Maroilles. On this 
line the 66th Division was to pass through the 25th Division and secure the 
final line of exploitation. The 50th Division, in the centre, operating on a 
front of 2,500 yards, was responsible for clearing the portion of the Mormal 
Forest between the northern boundary of the 25th Division and a line 
drawn approximately due west from the bend of the canal 2,000 yards 
west of Sassegnics. The division was then to cross the canal and advance, 
in conjunction with the 66th Division, to the line of exploitation, or 
second objective laid down by the Army Commander. 

On the left, the 18th Division, with an initial frontage of 3,000 yards, 
which narrowed rapidly as the advance progressed, was to attack 
through the Mormal Forest towards Sassegnies, establishing itself on the 
canal east and south of that village until its front was covered by the 
advance of the 50th Division. 

Maj.-Gen. Charles, commanding the 25th Division, arranged to 
attack with the 75th Brigade in line, while the 74th and 7th Brigades 
were to " leap-frog " the 75th Brigade on the first objective (red line). 
Maj.-Gen. Jackson, commanding the 50th Division, ordered an advance on 
a two-brigade front, with the 149th and 150th Brigades leading, intending 
to pass the 151st Brigade through them when it was considered that the 
attack required fresh impetus. Maj.-Gen. Lee, commanding the 18th 
Division, attacked on a two-brigade front, with the 54th and 53rd Brigades 
leading and the 55th Brigade " leap-frogging "them on the first objective. 
As it was expected that the enemy would offer strong resistance at Preux- 
aux-Bois, a convergent attack by the 50th and 18th Divisions from the 
south and north, wheeling inwards when they had passed the village and 
attacking it from both flanks and rear, was arranged by Sir Thomas Morland. 
The chief part in this attack was to be taken by the 54th Brigade as the 
village lay in the 18th Division's area. 

The instructions for the artillery support of the XIII Corps attack 

were drawn up after a careful study of air photographs, and the artillery 

barrage fire was modified to suit the peculiar conditions. 

® artmery" * Owing to the wooded nature of the country many areas 
were unsuitable for an 18-pounder barrage ; moreover, 
the undergro^\i;h impeded the advance of the infantry and rendered turn- 
ing movements necessary. Certain areas or " blocks " were, therefore, 
kept under fire for definite periods, which allowed time for the infantry to 
work round them ; the fire was then lifted on to other areas which were 
treated in the same manner. This fire was combined with a thin creeping 
barrage the advance of which was regulated on the usual principles. This 
system of " block " barrages continued as far as the first objective, beyond 
which the infantry was to be supported by brigades of field artillery and 
6-inch howitzers. 

It was of paramount importance on this occasion that the attack 
should be a complete surprise to the enemy, otherwise the difficulties of 
crossing the canal would have been very greatly increased ; artillery 



246 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY [November 1st-3rd 

action, therefore, remained normal, there being neither an increase nor 
diminution of artillery fire prior to " zcro.''^ In view of the close nature 
of the country, arrangements were made for pushing units of artillery and 
trench mortars far forward so that immediate artillery support would 
always be available for the infantry. 

The provision of means for crossing the canal offered great scope for 
ingenuity, industry, and organisation. There was none too much time 
to complete the preparations, and the engineers 
'b^idgtag"he'°canir ^^ divisions and corps vied with each other in pro- 
ducing various patterns of light strong bridges for 
the passage of infantry and more substantial ones for guns and 
transport. 

In the case of the 1st and 32nd Divisions, it was decided that the 
bridges for the use of the assaulting troops should be carried up bodily 
as bridges, so that no constructional work would be necessary on arrival 
at the canal bank. The bridges for the leading troops of the 2nd Brigade 
to cross at Lock No, 1 were designed as single span bridges, as light as was 
consistent with their being able to support four to six men on them at 
one time. They were fitted with a lever and a pair of wheels, so that they 
could be launched from the western abutments of the lock without re- 
quiring anyone on the far side to receive them. The leading troops of the 
1st Brigade used floating bridges carried on German steel floats.^ Four 
bridges of this type were made, and, owing to their lightness and shape, 
as well as their suitability for sliding over mud, they were perhaps the most 
effective pattern of all. The several bays of each bridge were hinged 
together in such a way as to give the maximum flexibility in order to avoid 
any difficulty when passing them over the near bank of the canal. The 
head of each bridge was fitted with a ladder to enable the infantry to scale 
the far bank. The latter type of bridge was also used by the 32nd Division, 
which, in addition, constructed light footbridges by lashing petrol tins 
together. 

The 25th Division arranged for infantry bridges to be thrown at 
three places at and on both sides of the Landrecies lock. Rafts, con- 
sisting of sixteen petrol tins fixed to a timber framework, were accordingly 
designed by the engineers of the 25th Division. This raft was primarily 
intended for ferrying the leading infantry across the canal, ^ and to each 
raft was fixed a paddle and towing lines so that it could be paddled or 
towed backwards and forwards across the canal. As soon as the leading 
infantry was across, it was intended to form the rafts into light floating 
bridges * ; these rafts were carried forward by hand by engineers and 
pioneers. For crossing the lock at Landrecies, in the event of the lock 
gates being destroyed, the engineers of the 25th Division made two light 
trussed footbridges 22 feet long. 

> For the attack on November 4th the Fourth Army employed 31 field artillery brigades, 
19 brigades of heavy artillery, and 13 long-range siege batteries. 

^ These were light, hollow, metal cylinders made for this purpose by the Giermans, and of which 
we had captured considerable numbers in their engineer parks. 

3 It weighed 95 lbs. and had a buoyancy of 2.30 lbs. 

♦ A demonstration was carried out "with six rafts on the Selle near Le Cateau on November 
2nd, which was witnessed by all battalions who were likely to carry out the crossing of the canal. 




►4 

< 

< 

w 



Q 
Z 
<! 

w 
a; 

CO 

S 
< 
en 

X 
H 

O 

'f> 
as 



05 
W 
'fj 
W 
OS 

w 

X 





o 
z 

o 



O 



o 

X 



NovEiiBEE 4TH.] THE LAST PHASE 247 

As a last resort, in the event of the various types of bridges used 
by the infantry faihng, lifebelts were issued to all troops engaged in the 
crossing of the canal, and a number of light portable Berthon boats were 
held in readiness. 

For the operations the Fourth Army was allotted forty-two Mark V 
or Mark V star tanks of the 2nd Tank Brigade, nine armoured cars of the 
17th Armoured Car Battalion, and eight supply tanks 
"^^ UnS*'^' °' ^°^ carrying forward ammunition and bridging rnaterial. 
Of the Mark V and Mark V star tanks, the IX Corps 
was given the 10th Tank Battalion consisting of eleven tanks ; of these, 
three tanks were allotted to the 1st Division, two to the 32nd Division, 
and the remaining six were retained in corps reserve. The tanks operating 
with the 1st and 32nd Divisions were to assist in the attack on and the 
" mopping up " of Catillon and the Happegarbes spur respectively, subse- 
quently assisting the infantry in establishing bridgeheads over the canal. 
The 9th and 14th Tank Battalions, consisting of fourteen and seventeen 
tanks respectively, were given to the XIII Corps ; of these, the 25th 
and 50th Divisions were allotted respectively four and ten tanks of the 
9th Tank Battalion, and the 18th Division ten tanks of the lith 
Battalion. The role of these tanks was to precede the infantry through 
the difficult and intricate orchard country along the western edge of the 
Mormal Forest and to force passages through the thick hedges, which 
would otherwise have delayed the infantry considerably. These tanks 
were not intended to enter the forest, but were ordered to rally when the 
infantry had penetrated into it and when the area outside the forest 
had been cleared. Certain tanks were, however, given the special task 
of " mopping up " Preux-aux-Bois in conjunction with the attack of the 
50th and 18th Divisions. The XIII Corps retained in reserve seven tanks 
of the 14th Tank Battalion. Of the nine cars of the 17th Armoured Car 
Battalion, two were allotted to the 18th Division and two to the 50th 
Division to carry out reconnaissances in Mormal Forest. As far as 
possible the infantiy was trained in co-operation with the tanks during the 
period of preparation, and the various units made elaborate arrangements 
with the personnel of the tanks which were to work with them in order to 
ensure satisfactory co-operation. 

" Zero " for the IX Corps attack was fixed for 5.45 a.m. on November 

4th, while that of the XIII Corps was half an hour later so as to conform 

with that of the Third Army, The assembly of the 

The assembly infantry and tanks was carried out during the night 

of the 3rd without a hitch, and a heavy ground mist in 

the early morning obscured their movements from the enemy. 

At 5.45 a.m. the barrage came down in front of the IX Corps 

along the eastern bank of the canal, and the assembled 

ETo?STS'atSck infantry of the 1st and 32nd Divisions moved forward 

of the 1st Division ; ^^ thc attack. 

the crossing of the On the right the 2nd Brigade moved forward with 

'"""VjJi" ^"^ *h^ 2nd King's Royal Rifle Corps and the 2nd Roval 

Sussex on the right and left, followed by the 1st 

Northamptonshire in support. South of the reservoirs the 2nd Welsh 



248 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY INovember *rH 

of the 3rd Brigade held the line of the canal to the junction with the 
French north of Oisy. 

It had been hoped to have a bridge erected over the lock within five 
minutes of " zero," but a small stream west of the canal proved a more 
serious obstacle than had been anticipated and caused some delay. A 
heavy hostile barrage fell on the western banks of the canal, and withering 
machine-gun fire from the lock-house and from the direction of Bois de 
I'Abbaye swept all approaches to the lock. So intense was the enemy's 
fire that even the stoutest troops hesitated, and it seemed impossible for 
any man to get to the lock and yet live. It was a situation that called 
for personal gallantry of the highest order ; fortunately this was not lacking. 
Major Findlay,^ of the 409th Field Company, quickly steadied and led forward 
his sappers and the leading infantry towards the lock. In spite of heavy 
casualties, the engineers and infantry responded magnificently to Major 
Findlay's example, and a bridge was placed across the lock. Meanwhile 
Lt.-Col. Dudley Johnson,^ commanding the 2nd Royal Sussex, had come 
forward to see what progress had been made. He found that when any 
parties of infantry approached the fire-swept zone they were checked 
and thrown into confusion by the intensity of the enemy's fire. Recognising 
at once that delay would only increase casualties and demoralise the 
troops, Lt.-Col. Johnson quickly collected men to assist the sappers with the 
bridges and then personally led the assault forward. Again the enemy's fire 
broke up the bridging and attacking parties. The rear waves, which were 
now closing up, added to the congestion, and heavy casualties began to be 
suffered from the enemy's withering fire. Lt.-Col. Johnson made another 
great effort, reorganised his parties, and, under his gallant leadership, the 
attacking troops finally crossed the bridge and stormed the lock-house. 

The whole of the 2nd Royal Sussex, followed by a large number of the 
2nd King's Royal Rifle Corps, was soon across the canal and moving up the 
spur south of Bois de I'Abbaye. One company of the latter battalion, 
which was to have crossed further south by the existing footbridges over 
the reservoirs, found them badly damaged by shell fire and attempted to 
cross the reservoir by means of Berthon boats. This was impractic- 
able in face of the hostile machine-gun fire, and the company, therefore, 
followed the remainder of its battalion over the canal by the lock bridge. 
The leading troops of the 2nd Brigade soon reached the line of the road 
running south from Bois de I'Abbaye, and, after a pause of twenty minutes 
to reorganise, moved forward to the bridgehead line, which they gained by 
8 a.m., capturing a large number of prisoners of the 19th Reserve and 
29th Divisions. 

On the front of the 1st Brigade the 1st Cameron Highlanders and the 
1st Loyal North Lancashire moved forward on the right and left respec- 
tively, simultaneously with the 23rd Field Companv ; 
^« JjosSn^*^^ *h^ 1^^ '^^^^^ Watch followed in support. Practically 
no resistance was encountered on the west bank of the 
canal, except for one machine-gun, the crew of which was disposed of by 
a sergeant of the 23rd Field Company. As soon as the barrage lifted off 
the east bank of the canal at three minutes after " zero," four floating 

' See Appendix E, N'o. 17. ^ See Appendix E, No. 20. 



\o. 96. 



'To face page 248. 




IHt LOCK-HOUSE FROM THE WEST. 



\ u. 97. 







ANOrilER I'ARr OI- Mil-: SAMISRi; AM) OISi; CANAI., SOLIH Ol- CAIII.I.O.N, SHOWING 
lllE BRUX.KS \\\ WHICH 1 H i: 1ST BRK.ADE, I SI' DUTSION, CROSSED. 




H 
en 
W 



K 

h 

s 

o 
« 

z 
o 






November 4th] THE LAST PHASE 249 

bridges were pushed across the canal and were all in position by ten 
minutes after " zero." On the right the 1st Cameron Highlanders crossed 
without opposition in six minutes,^ and very shortly afterwards both 
battalions were across the canal and re-forming before moving forward 
towards the bridgehead line. The enemy's retaliatory barrage, which 
had been slow in opening, fell west of the canal well behind the leading 
battalions, and the bridgehead line was reached with little difficulty by 
8 a.m. 

For the attack on Catillon the 3rd Brigade employed the 1st 

Gloucestershire, which prior to " zero " was assembled in the orchards 

south of the village. Though the thick ground mist 

'^by'thl^'srVBrig^ade"" "^^^c it difficult to keep direction, good progress was 

made. Of the three tanks of the 10th Tank Battalion 

with the 3rd Brigade, one broke down before the attack commenced, but 

the remaining two rendered valuable assistance. After some opposition 

in the outskirts of the village the southern portion was quickly cleared 

with the help of one of the tanks. The other tank made for the bridge over 

the canal, and in co-operation with the infantry destroyed a machine-gun 

cunningly concealed in a house near by. 

In the meantime two companies of the 1st South Wales Borderers had 
approached Catillon from the west and assisted the 1st Gloucestershire 
to " mop up " the village. While this fighting was in progress an excellent 
artillery barrage had been maintained along the canal bank, preventing 
all escape, and, when it lifted to enable the infantry of the 3rd Brigade to 
move forward and secure the bridge crossings, fully 100 of the enemy 
crawled from the cellars of Catillon and surrendered. The bridge crossings 
were blocked with wire and various obstacles ; these were surmounted, 
and soon after 8 a.m. six platoons of the 1st Gloucestershire were across 
the canal and were pushing forward to form a bridgehead and get in touch 
with the units on either flank. 

When the protective barrage, which had been maintained in front 

of the bridgehead line, lifted at 9.30 a.m., the 2nd and 1st Brigades moved 

forward towards the intermediate objective (blue line), 

"^nh^TsTDiSn ^"d on the right the 1st Northamptonshire was brought 

up from support for the attack against Fesmy. The 

advance met with little opposition, and the intermediate objective north 

of Fesmy was secured shortly after midday, though in Fesmy itself the 

enemy was still holding out. Owing to the 66th French Division on the 

right being unable to move forward as fast as was expected, the flank 

of the 2nd Brigade became exposed and was reinforced by the 1 '6th 

Welsh (Pioneers). A battalion of the 46th Division was also ordered 

up later. 2 

At 4 p.m. the 66th French Division attacked with a view to joining 
up with the 1st Division at La Justice, while simultaneously the 1st 
Northamptonshire advanced and captured Fesmy and Vieville. A patrol 

' There was a competition between the two battalions as to which sliould be across the canal 
first. The Cameron Highlanders won by the narrow margin of half a minute. 

* In order to avoid complicating Map 17, the movements of the 46th Division are not shown 
on it. 

K K 



250 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY [November 4th 

succeeded in penetrating as far as La Justice, but touch was not actually 
gained with the French, who had reached the western outskirts of Bergues- 
sur-Sambre. A flank was established from Vieville, south-east of 
Fesmy, to the canal, while the 2nd Welsh, which had captured the bridge 
at Pt. Cambresis, held the canal and maintained touch between the French 
and the 2nd Brigade. 

When the barrage moved forward on the 1st Brigade front, the 1st 
Cameron Highlanders and the 1st Black Watch, the latter having " leap- 
frogged " the 1st Loyal North Lancashire, advanced on the right and left 
respectively. At Robelmetre the 1st Cameron Highlanders were held up 
temporarily by shell fire, but the left company, avoiding the shelled area, 
reached the road south of Grand Galop Farm. The right company of the 
1st Black Watch moved through Boyau de Leu and advanced to Grand 
Galop and Petit Galop farms, which they captured with 30 prisoners. 
The left company of the 1st Black Watch met with little resistance until 
Mezicres was reached. Here the enemy attempted to fight, but was soon 
overwhelmed, and 50 prisoners were taken. 

As the 1st Brigade was not in touch with the 32nd Division on 
the left, a company of the 1st Loyal North Lancashire moved forward 
to the Mezieres-Catillon road and by 5.15 p.m. had established com- 
munication between the 1st Brigade and the 32nd Division at Malassise 
Farm. 

As the result of the day's fighting the 1st Division had forced the 

difficult passage of the Sambre and Oise Canal, penetrating beyond it 

The result of the ^^ ^ depth of ovcr 4,000 yards and capturing the villages 

fighting by the 1st of CatiUon, Mcziercs, La Groise, and Fesmy. The 

Division total casualties of the division were under 500, whereas 

49 officers and 1,649 other ranks had been captured belonging to the 19th 

Reserve, 29th, and 200th Divisions, together with 20 guns of various 

calibres. 

At 5.45 a.m., on the 32nd Division front, the 14th Brigade moved 

forward with the 5 /6th Royal Scots on the right, the 1st Dorsetshire on 

Th tt k f th * ^^^^' ^^^^ with the 15th Highland liight Infantry in 

32nd Division ; the reserve. The 96th Brigade on the left advanced 

14th Brigade force a with the 2nd Manchester, 16th Lancashire Fusiliers, 

crossing ^^^ -j^^^j^ Lancashire Fusiliers in line from right to left, 

and with two companies of the 2nd King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry 

in reserve. The 97th Brigade, less two companies of 2nd King's Own 

Yorkshire Light Infantry, was held in reserve in the vicinity of St. 

Souplet. 

When the artillery barrage lifted off the canal bank fire minutes after 
" zero," the infantry occupied the whole of the western bank of the canal 
except south of Ors, where the 5 /6th Royal Scots were checked by machine- 
gun fire from Le Donjon. A surprise attempt by the 1st Dorsetshire 
to force a crossing over the canal at Ors failed owing to the severity of 
the enemy's machine-gun and shell fire. The battalion effected a crossing, 
however, by means of a bridge of petrol tins south of Ors by twenty-five 
minutes after " zero " ; luckily the enemy, while subjecting all the 
suspected points of crossing to an accurate fire, did not locate this bridge 



November 4th] THE LAST PHASE 251 

owing to the mist until it was too late, with the result that the 1st Dorset- 
shire crossed with but little opposition. Taking advantage of this crossing, 
two companies of the 5 /6th Royal Scots gained the eastern bank of the 
canal, and by 8.15 a.m. they and the 1st Dorsetshire were firmly estab- 
lished along the road running parallel to the canal through Rue Verte 
and the eastern outskirts of Ors. The enemy defending Le Donjon 
was now threatened from the rear and was forced to surrender. 

The 96th Brigade was not so successful in its attempt to cross just 

south of the elbow in the canal north of Ors. Only through the 

heroism of Major Waters and Sapper Archibald ^ of 

The temporary check ^j 218th Field Company was it possible to get a bridge 

to the 96th Brigade u i 4. "iu u ii j 

across. Ihe whole area was swept with shell and 
machine-gun fire, and it seemed impossible for anyone to live on the bank 
of the canal. All the rest of the party were killed or disabled, yet these 
two gallant engineers carried on the work, while bullets splintered the 
wood they were holding and struck sparks from the wire binding the 
floats. Meanwhile, 2nd Lieut. Kirk ^ of the 2nd Manchester, in a splendid 
spirit of self-sacrifice, paddled across the canal on a raft and engaged the 
enemy with a Lewis gun. This gallant act cost him his life, but a bridge 
was erected, and two platoons of his battalion succeeded in crossing. 
Unforttmately, the bridge was almost immediately destroyed by shell 
fire, and, though repeated attempts were made to repair it, the undertaking 
had to be abandoned, and the remainder of the battalion took shelter 
from the enemy's fire behind the western bank of the canal until it received 
a message from the 1st Dorsetshire that it was possible to cross at Ors. 

Just below the elbow in the canal the Engineers and the 16th Highland 
Light Infantry (Pioneers) succeeded in erecting a bridge of small 
cork rafts ; before, however, the leading troops of the 16th Lancashire 
Fusiliers could cross, the bridge was broken by concentrated artillery and 
machine-gun fire. The officer commanding this battalion, Lt.-Col. 
Marshall of the Irish Guards, ^ took charge of the situation and organised 
parties of volunteers for the repair of the bridge ; the first party were all 
soon killed or wounded, nevertheless the bridge was finally erected. Lt.-Col. 
Marshall stood on the bank while the work was being carried out, and then 
attempted to rush across at the head of his battalion ; he was killed 
almost at once. Over 200 casualties had now been sustained in the effort 
to cross the canal, and it was clear that any further attempts to cross 
on the 96th Brigade front would only result in purposeless loss of life. 
The troops of the 14th Brigade east of the canal were, therefore, ordered 
to stand fast until the 96th Brigade had succeeded in crossing by the 
bridges which had been erected by the 14th Brigade. 

While these events were occurring further south the 15th Lancashire 
Fusiliers and the two companies of the 2nd King's 0\vn Yorkshire Light 

Infantry attacked the Happegarbes spin*, assisted bv two 
HappegirbeVsp? t^^^^- ^he infantry and tanks worked through the 

village of Happegarbes, clearing up strong points 
and machine-gun nests, and then advanced parallel to the railway 

' See Appendix E, Nos. 46 and 2. ' See Appendix E, No. 29. 

' See Appendix E, No. 84. 



252 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY [November 4th 

embankment, where considerable opposition was encountered. By 7 a.m. 
the whole ground west of the Canal was finally cleared as a result of the 
excellent co-operation between the two arms. 

Shortly after 8.30 a.m. the 96th Brigade began to cross the 

canal by the 14th Brigade bridges and cleared the area north-east of 

Ors. It was held up at La Motte Farm, but on the 

of'lhe'sand Dilbion ^'S^t reached the intermediate objective in conjunction 

with the 14th Brigade, which later joined up with the 

1st Division north of Mezieres. 

During the afternoon the 15th Lancashire Fusiliers, holding 
Happegarbes, passed two companies across the canal south of 
Landrecies over the two footbridges which had been used by the 
25th Division. These two companies at dusk held a position facing 
south, with their right on the canal 1,000 yards south-west of Land- 
recies and their left in touch with the 25th Division near Pont a 
Beaumetz. 

Dviring the day's fighting 238 prisoners of the 22nd Reserve, 54th, and 
204th Divisions and Cyclist Battalions, 20 guns, and many machine-guns 
were captvu-ed by the 32nd Division, and a bridgehead had been firmly 
established. Thanks to the untiring energy of the 219th Field Company a 
transport bridge at Ors was completed by 1 p.m., and by means of this 
bridge a brigade of field artillery crossed the canal and was in action 
south of Ors by 4 p.m. 

At 6.15 a.m., half an hour after the IX Corps launched its attack, 

the XIII Corps began its advance, in conjunction 

^''opewtionT''^ with the V Corps operating through the northern portion 

of Mormal Forest. 
The 75th Brigade of the 25th Division attacked, under a creeping 
barrage moving forward at the rate of 100 yards every six minutes, 
with the l/5th Gloucestershire and the l/8th Royal Warwickshire in line 
The capture oJ Land- on the right and left respectively. The 1 /8th Worcester- 
recies by the 25th shire followed in support, while the 108th Field Com- 
Division pany and a company of the 11th South Lancashire 

(Pioneers) followed close behind the leading infantry carrying 80 rafts down 
to the canal, the majority of which reached it safely. At the same time, two 
companies of the 21st Manchester from the 7th Brigade " mopped up " the 
ground between the 25th and 32nd Divisions in conjunction with the troops 
of the 96th Brigade. By 8.15 a.m. the two companies of the 21st Manchester 
had cleared up this area and were in touch with the 32nd Division on the 
railway. Half an hour later the l/5th Gloucestershire reached the canal 
bank south-west of Landrecies and had the good fortune to discover two 
footbridges, about 1,000 yards south-west of the town, which the enemy had 
not destroyed. The battalion streamed across these bridges at 9.30 a.m., 
closely followed by two companies of the l/8th Worcestershire, and 
commenced to encircle Landrecies from the south. The l/8th Royal 
Warwickshire on the eft experienced stiff opposition in the vicinity of 
Faubourg-Soyeres. The enemy's resistance was, however, finally over- 
come largely owing to the gallantry of Lee. -Corp. William Amey, 
M'ho rushed the chateau unaided and, after killing two Germans, held up 




W 

I 1 

CJ 

w 
Q 

W 
O 
Q 

PQ 

Q 
Z 
<3 

t^ 
o 
O 

w 



November 4th] THE LAST PHASE 253 

the remainder of the garrison till his comrades arrived. ^ With the capture 
of Faubourg-Soyeres the enemy's resistance in this part of the field was 
broken, and the l/8th Royal Warwickshire reached the canal. As was 
anticipated, the road bridge near the lock in Landrecies was bloA\'n up, 
but the left company of the battalion discovered another enemy bridge 
intact about 500 yards further north. Shortly afterwards the remainder 
of the 1 /8th Royal Warwickshire crossed at the lock gates, Avhich had been 
rushed by a small party of the 182nd Tunnelling Company who over- 
powered the enemy demolition party while in the act of blowing them up. 
At the same time one company of the l/8th Worcestershire crossed the 
canal by means of petrol-tin rafts between these two crossings. Thus, by 
midday, there were more than half a dozen crossings available for infantry, 
and the 106th Field Company then undertook the erection of two pontoon 
bridges near the lock, which, in spite of heavy shell fire, were completed 
soon after dark. 

The failure of such an obstacle as the canal to stop our advance, 
doubtless exercised a demoralising influence on the Germans defending 
Landrecies. Attacked on three sides, from the south, west, and north, 
the resistance of the garrison, consisting chiefly of men of the Cyclist Brigade, 
was quickly overcome, and by noon the whole of the village had been cleared. 
The capture of Landrecies was an operation beset with many diffi- 
culties, but, thanks to good leadership, the bravery of the troops, and the 
skill and devotion of the divisional engineers and pioneers, the 75th 
Brigade met with the success and good fortune which such a well 
planned and boldly executed operation deserved. 

About 1 p.m. the 74th Brigade commenced to cross the canal and, 
moving through Landrecies, advanced towards Le Preseau with the 
11th Sherwood Foresters on the right, the 9th Yorkshire on the left, and 
the 13th Durham Light Infantry in support. To cover the right flank of 
the 74th Brigade the 75th Brigade established a defensive flank south of 
Landrecies to Pont a Beaumetz, where touch was later established with 
the 32nd Division. By nightfall the 74th Brigade had established itself 
along the line from Saule Bryante through Le Preseau to the canal. 

The 50th Division began its advance at 6.15 a.m. with the 149th 

Brigade on the right, the 150th on the left, and the 151st 

The 50th Division ^^ Support. Eight of the ten tanks of the 9th Tank 

attack through Battalion allotted to the division left their assembly 

Monnai Forest position half an hour before the infantry began to 

advance and co-operated in the attack. 2 Though the enemy's artillery 

fire was not very heavy, falling chiefly in the vicinity of Fontaine-au-Bois 

and Robersart, the machine-gun fire was severe, the numerous hedgerows 

being infested with machine-guns. On account of this and the thickness 

of the mist, progress was much sloAvcr than was anticipated. The 149th 

Brigade found itself temporarily checked along the Landrecies- 

Englefontaine road, but by about 8 a.m. the opposition had been overcome 

' See Appendix E, No. 1. 

^ The crew of one of these tanks was put out of action by the enemy's gas shell on the way up 
to join the infantry, but was replaced by a scratch crew of Dublin Fusiliers which rendered an 
excellent account of itself. 



254 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY [Novejibee 4th 

with the assistance of the tanks, and the advance was resumed. In this area 
the enemy had a very complete system of machine-gun defence, which 
constantly checked the advance of the 149th Brigade. The value of the 
training carried out by the infantry with the tanks was very marked, and 
the final subjugation of this strong machine-gun defence must be ascribed 
to a very large extent to their excellent co-operation. 

Meeting with less resistance, the 150th Brigade had reached the line of 
the Hirondelle Stream by 9 a.m. At this time two companies of the 
2nd Royal Munster Fusiliers attacked Preux-aux-Bois from the south in 
conjunction with an attack of troops of the 18th Division from the north 
and east. Here the fighting continued for a long time, but did not inter- 
fere with the advance of the 50th Division. 

By 11 a.m. the 149th Brigade had reached the northern portion of 
Faubovirg-Soyeres, with their left in INIormal Forest and in touch with the 
150th Brigade, which was disposed along the road running north from the 
Drill Ground through the forest about 1,000 yards from its western edge. 
The enemy's resistance, though still fairly strong in front of the 149th 
Brigade, was much weaker opposite the 150th, consequently Maj.-Gen. 
Jackson decided to move up the 151st Brigade, then in support near Bousies, 
to increase the pressure where the opposition was weakest. While the 
151st Brigade, however, was moving forward, the two leading brigades made 
good progress, and by 12 noon the whole of the first objective (red line) was 
in our hands. All organised resistance appeared to be broken, and the only 
opposition encountered was from isolated machine-guns firing at fairly long 
range. Half an horn: later the leading battalions of the 151st Brigade " leap- 
frogged " the 150th Brigade and continued the advance on the left of the 
149th Brigade, which had reached the railway east of Les Etoquies and 
was approaching the canal. At dusk the 149th Brigade held the line of 
the canal from the bend north of Le Preseau, where it was in touch 
with the 25th Division, to near Cense Toury ; the 151st Brigade continued 
the line due north through Mormal Forest to Carrefour de I'Hermitage, 
where it joined up with the 18th Division. 

Simultaneously with the advance of the 50th Division the troops 
of the 18th Division moved forward on the extreme left of the XIII Corps. 
On the right, the 54th Brigade attacked north of Preux- 
^isth^DWisbn''^ aux-Bois with the 6th Northamptonshire, while, south 
of this battalion, the 11th Royal Fusiliers stood fast 
until the village should be turned from the north by the 2nd Bedfordshire, 
who followed in support of the 6th Northamptonshire ; on the left, the 
7th Royal West Kent led the advance of the 53rd Brigade against Hecq. 
The barrage was all that could be desired, whereas the enemy's 
artillery fire, although it came do^vn three minutes after " zero," 
was weak and not effective. Assisted by ten tanks of the 
14th Tank Battalion, the 6th Northamptonshire and the 7th 
Royal West Kent made good progress in the face of considerable 
resistance. By 8 a.m. these two battalions were north-east of Preux- 
aux-Bois and east of Hecq, although the Germans held out in both 
villages. One tank, detailed to assist in the capture of Hecq, entered 
the village from the west, but almost immediately lost touch with the 








T -^rr 



"J^U 



^.^^T, 











r T)l 









1 



p 



,,w'»-- 








lis '»'■ ,''■*' 




:I,Uw/^ 



•;'»'•;- r 



j;.f''i* 




7' i r *■ ' ^<"«' 










> .^ t Ml 




JMi<i 












a J 



November 4th] THE LAST PHASE 255 

7th Royal West Kent. It came into contact, however, with some troops 
of the 38th Division on the left and helped them by silencing a machine-gun 
nest on the outskirts of Englefontaine. Then, returning to Hecq, it re- 
joined the 7th Royal West Kent and proceeded to " mop up " strong points, 
capturing two machine-guns and two trench mortars in the northern 
end of the village. Before completing this task it was put out of action, 
but the crew, removing the machine-guns, successfully finished its fight with 
one of the strong points from outside the tank. The fighting in Hecq 
was severe and continued for several hours after the rest of the line had 
advanced. Even more determined was the struggle for the possession 
of Preux-aux-Bois. It was attacked from the north by the 2nd Bedford- 
shire, assisted by a company of the 11th Royal Fusiliers and a company of 
the 6th Northamptonshire. The 50th Division also co-operated by sending 
two companies of the 2nd Royal Munster Fusiliers to attack the village 
from the south. In the strenuous fighting that ensued before its capture 
important and valuable assistance was rendered by three tanks. ^ 

The struggle in and around Preux-aux-Bois and Hecq delayed the 
advance of the two " leap-frogging " battalions of the 53rd Brigade which 
had been detailed to continue the advance east of those villages to the first 
objective (red line). However, two companies of the 8th Royal Berkshire 
eventually succeeded in pushing through on the north about noon, followed 
by the 10th Essex which moved up into line with them on their right 
some time later. 

The advance was then resumed without incident until the line of the 
Route Duhamel was reached. Here there was a check, but the 55th 
Brigade, which had followed in rear of the 10th Essex and 8th Royal 
Berkshire, assisted them to push forward to the first objective, which was 
gained by 2.30 p.m. The general advance of the 55th Brigade, east of the 
first objective, commenced at 3.30 p.m. and proceeded rapidly. Slight 
opposition was encountered in the vicinity of Carrefour de I'Hermitage, 
but, by 7 p.m., our line was established 300 yards east of the Carrefour 
de FHermitage-Locquignol road. 

A few armoured cars of the 17th Armoured Car Battalion co-operated 

with the 18th and 50th Divisions, and were most useful in the fighting which 

took place amongst the hedgerows and in the forest. Their 

The armoured cars appearance along the muddy roads of Mormal Forest 

caused considerable confusion, with the result that a 

number of the enemy abandoned their machine-guns without firing a shot. 

Thanks in a large measure to the heroism of subordinate leaders, 

both officers and men, the day's operations had been a brilliant success. The 

The result of the passage of the Sambre and Oise Canal had been forced 

fighting on November on a wide front from south of Catillon to Landrecies 

*"* in the face of a determined opposition ; a bridgehead 

on a front of at least fifteen miles and to an average depth of three miles 

1 At one time oi»e of these tanks, with three of its machine-guns out of action and its 6-pdr. 
guns badly jammed by the enemy's fire, found itself surrounded by Germans. These, pushing 
up the muzzles of the remaining machine-guns, climbed on to the top of the tank and endeavoured 
to tlirow bombs through the apertures, but they were prevented from doing so by the crew using 
their revolvers. The enemy was then driven off and the tank continued its task of " mopping 
up " the village. 



256 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY [November 5th 

had been established, while Mormal Forest had been penetrated to a depth 
of some 6,000 yards. Over 4,000 prisoners and nearly 80 guns had been 
captvired. The IX and XIII Corps, which achieved such decisive results 
in the last organised attack by the Fourth Army and held the post 
of honour at the end of the campaign, received from the Commander-in- 
Chief and the Army Commander the praise which their work had 
so well deserved.' 

Equally unsuccessful was the attempt of the enemy to check the ad- 
vance of the Third and First Armies further north and that of the First 
French Army to the south. More important, however, than the gain of terri- 
tory or the capture of prisoners and material, was the fact that on this vital 
portion of his front the enemy's resistance had been broken. The only hope 
that had remained to the enemy of preventing his military position from 
becoming desperate was to have held on to the line of the Sambre long 
enough to enable the German High Command to make preparations for 
a planned withdrawal to another line ; numerous captured German docu- 
ments clearly showed this.'^ After this defeat, the German forces had no 
alternative but to fall back along the whole front, and the Allied pursuit 
only required to be pressed home in order to compel the enemy to accept 
whatever terms the Allies were prepared to offer. 

Accordingly, the IX and XIII Corps were ordered ito resume the 

advance towards Avesnes on the morning of November 5th. The heavy 

_ t • N - drizzling rain, which was falling when the advance was 

ber 5th and'eth ; the resumed, restricted observation, and the rate of advance 

events on the EK was slow. For the next few days the rain continued 

Corps Front without cessation, and the surface of the roads and tracks 

was churned into mud and slush by the continuous traffic, thus increasing 

enormously the difficulties of the much tried transport services. During 

the night of November 4th the 46th Division moved across the canal, 

relieving the 1st and 14th Brigades of the 1st and 32nd Divisions 

respectively, astride the main Mezieres-Catillon road, and the advance was 

resumed at 6.30 a.m. on November 5th. 

On the extreme right the 2nd Brigade of the 1st Division still held a 
defensive flank round Fesmy, and, when the advance was resumed, occu- 
pied La Justice without opposition, gaining touch with the French who 
had advanced through Bergues-sur-Sambre. The subsequent advance 
of the 46th British Division and the 66th French Division enabled the 
2nd Brigade to be " squeezed out," and it rejoined the 1st Division in 
reserve in the Wassigny area. On the front of the 32nd Division the enemy 
at La Motte Farm had withdra^vn dm-ing the night and allowed the 97th 
Brigade, which took over the whole divisional front, to join up with the 
right of the XIII Corps south of Landrecies. Under cover of a thin cavalry 
screen provided by the 20th Hussars rapid progress was made on the 
IX Corps front. The cavalry successfully prevented the enemy's rear- 

* Of all the British divisions engaged in the hundred days the 18th and 32nd were the only 
two that began and finished the campaign in the Fourth Army. 

* One issued by General von Larisch, commanding the LIV Corps on October 19th, 1918, said: — 

" The Army Group will accept the decisive battle on the Hermann Stellung (line of Sambre 
and Oise Canal). The Hermann Stellung must be held at any price. This is to be notified to all 
commanders down to and including Regimental Commanders." 



November 5TH-6TH] THE LAST PHASE 257 

guards offering any serious resistance and captured a number of guns, 
including two 8-inch howitzers in the village of Favril. By nightfall the 
46th Division held the high ground 2,000 yards east of Le Sart-en-Thierache 
and was astride the La Rivierette just north-west of Prisches. The 32nd 
Division held the spur about 2,000 yards east of Favril and was in touch 
with the 25th Division south of Maroilles. 

On the morning of the 6th, owing to the difficulties of communication 
which were much increased by the enemy's systematic destruction of 
roads and bridges, it was impossible to renew the advance until 9.30 a.m. 
There was practically no fighting throughout the day ; the 20th Hussars 
keeping in touch with the retreating enemy, while the advanced guards of 
the 46th and 32nd Divisions followed along the roads. Towards evening 
the 46th Division entered Cartignies and established an outpost hne 
on the Petite Helpe. The 32nd Division cleared Grand Fayt before 
noon, but found the Petite Helpe a difficult obstacle. Two companies 
of the 10th Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, however, crossed by a bridge 
erected by the 25th Division at INIaroilles and worked southwards. In the 
meantime, the main body of the 97th Brigade forced its way across the 
river at the lock at Grand Fayt in spite of hostile machine-gun fire, and 
by 5 p.m. its leading infantry had passed through Le Foyaux and established 
an outpost line astride the ridge some distance further east. The IX 
Corps had thus gained the exploitation line, laid down by Sir Henry 
Rawhnson in his orders for the attack of November 4th, and was in touch 
with the First French Army on the right south of Cartignies, and with the 
XIII Corps on the left at the cross roads 1,500 yards east of Marbaix, 

By the morning of November 5th two good pontoon bridges, suitable for 
carrying field artillery, were in position at Landrecies and Les Etoqviies lock, 
and field artillerv brigades were moved across the canal 
""'SboS'™ to support the advance of the 25th Division towards 
Maroilles and Marbaix. The advance of the XIII 
Corps was continued at 6.30 a.m.., and an hoiu- and a-half later the van- 
guard of the 25th Division was approaching the Petite Helpe in the face 
of slight opposition. By noon Maroilles had been captured, and our troops 
were advancing towards Taisnieres-en-Thierache and Noyelles. 

Further north the 50th Division had completed the clearance of the 
south-eastern portion of Mormal Forest by 10.30. a.m. and had commenced to 
cross the canal by a footbridge south of Hachette Farm. The 149th Brigade 
was ordered to occupy Haute Noyelles and advance to the high ground at 
St. Roch Chapelle, followed by the 150th Brigade which was to move by 
Petit Landrecies to Leval. On the left of the army, the 18th Division had 
occupied the area west of the canal within the northern army boundary by 
noon, and was in touch with the V Corps, which held Berlaimont and was 
engaged in crossing the canal north of Leval. Owing to the swampy reaches of 
the Sambre and the enemy's opposition on the line of the Grande Helpe, the 
progress of the 50th Division towards Leval was slow, and, as the bridge 
at Noyelles had been blown up, there was some danger of touch being 
lost with the V Corps. To avoid this the 18th Division was instructed to 
keep in touch with the V Corps by moving patrols across the canal, and the 
12th Lancers were ordered to move to Dompierre, Monceau, and Leval with 

L L 



258 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY [Nov 5th-7th 

a view to reducing the opposition in front of the 50th Division. Here, 
however, the resistance of the Germans, who belonged to the 121st and 
241st Divisions, was too strong to be overcome by the cavaky. The enemy 
held the ground between Leval and Aulnoye in considerable strength, 
and at this point no further progress was made by our troops that day. 

Further south, the 25th Division captured Basse Noyelles late in the 
afternoon, and at dusk the 50th Division secured a footing on the far bank 
of the Grande Helpe near Le Champ du Pare Farm. As soon as its 
front was covered by this advance the 18th Division was withdrawn and 
moved back to the vicinity of Le Cateau. The 66th Division, which had 
concentrated in the vicinity of Landrecies during the day, was warned to 
be ready to move to the Maroilles-Taisnieres-en-Thierache area and 
relieve the 25th Division. 

The night of November 5th passed quietly, and the advance of the 
XIII Corps was resumed on the following morning at 7 a.m. The 25th 
Division pushed forward with the 74th Brigade on the right and the 
7th Brigade on the left. The 50th Division directed the 149th Brigade 
on Leval to gain touch with the V Corps which was now fighting in the 
northern outskirts of that village, while the 150th Brigade was ordered to 
cross the Grande Helpe at Le Champ du Pare Farm, capture Haut Noyelles 
from the north, and, swinging eastwards, continue the advance on the 
right of the 149th Brigade. 

Throughout the morning steady progress was made. All the avail- 
able cars of the 17th Armoured Car Battalion co-operated with the XIII 
Corps and were of great assistance in dealing with enemy machine-gun 
nests on the roads which they patrolled. 

By noon the leading infantry of the XIII Corps had reached 
the western outskirts of Marbaix and Taisnieres-en-Thierache, and Petit 
Landrecies and was advancing towards Leval which was still held by the 
enemy. Two hours later Marbaix had fallen, and by evening Dom- 
pierre, Monceau, and Leval had been occupied. Thus, by the evening 
of the 6th, the XIII Corps had also been able to gain the exploitation line 
of November 4th without serious difficulty. 

On the afternoon of November 5th it had already become evident 

that the enemy was in full retreat, and, consequently, orders were issued by 

The pursuit continued Sir Henry Rawlinson for the IX and XIII Corps to 

on November 7th, 8th, Continue the pursuit to the La Capelle-Avesnes-Mau- 

and 9th beuge road, including the town of Avesnes. The 

cavalry was to maintain touch with the enemy's rearguards, but the 

infantry was not to advance beyond this road. All tanks and armoured 

cars were withdrawn into army reserve in the vicinity of Landrecies for 

overhaul. 

The 46th and 32nd Divisions resumed the advance at dawn on 

November 7th with the 20th Hussars well in advance. By the evening of 

the 7th the 46th Division had reached a line just west of 

The IX Corps. the La Capelle- Avesnes road, but the 32nd Division 

encountered considerable opposition near Avesnes. By 

dribbling forward small parties our troops succeeded in approaching 

to within a few hundred yards of the town, but every effort 



November 7TH-8TH] THE LAST PHASE 259 

to enter Avesnes during the night was repulsed by heavy 
trench mortar and machine-gun fire. It was, therefore, arranged 
for the town to be attacked next morning by the 2nd King's Own York- 
shire Light Infantry. At 11 a.m. on November 8th the infantry, covered 
by a Hght barrage, rushed the enemy's posts and forced their way into the 
town ; by the evening troops of the 32nd Division held Avesnes and 
Avesnelles with an outpost line 1,000 yards fui-ther east. During the day 
the 46th Division pushed patrols across the main La Capelle-Avesnes 
road and by nightfall had established an outpost line 2,000 yards beyond 
it, in touch with the French east of La Folie and with the 32nd Division 
south-east of Avesnes. 

The 25th and 50th Divisions resvuned the advance at 8 a.m. on Novem- 
ber 7th. One and a-half hours later the vanguard of the 25th Division 
passed through Les Ardennes, with cavalry patrols at 
The xm Corps St. Hilairc-suT-Helpe where they encountered some fire 
from machine-guns along the Avesnes-Marbaix road ; the 
50th Division at this time was approaching St. Aubin. Throughout the 
remainder of November 7th considerable fighting took place. The 
numerous sunken roads, copses, and hedgerows concealed the enemy's 
machine-guns which covered the withdrawal of his rearguards. Slowly 
but surely, however, each centre of resistance was located and dealt with 
in turn. Particularly severe was the fighting in the 50th Division area 
in the village of Dourlers, which was captured by the 6th Royal Innis- 
killing Fusiliers supported by the 1st King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry. 
At nightfall ovu- outpost line was established 1,000 yards east of St. Hilaire- 
sur-Helpe, through La Croisette Farm, and along the eastern outskirts of 
Dourlers. 

During the afternoon of November 7th the 66th Division moved up 
to the Marbaix-Taisnieres-en-Thierache area, and at dusk moved forward 
again and reheved the 25th Division with the 199th and 198th Brigades, 
while on the left the 151st Brigade covered the front of the 50th Division 
with all three battalions in line. 

When the advance was resumed on the morning of November 8th, 
the 66th Division, though somewhat hampered by the intricate nature 
of the country north of Avesnes, gradually forced its way to the main 
Avesnes-Maubeuge road and emerged into more open coxmtry. Further 
north the 50th Division encountered considerable resistance, as the enemy 
had selected the line of the Avesnes-Maubeuge road as a rearguard position. ^ 
The vigour and determination of the attack, however, overcame all resist- 
ance, and by 9.30 a.m. the road was in our possession as far south as Les 
Trois Paves. A prisoner captured in this locality by the 50th Division gave 
the information that his regiment, 500 strong, was assembled in Beugnies 
Wood with orders to coimter-attack and regain the Hne of the Avesnes- 
Maubeuge road should it be lost. This proved to be correct, as at 11 a.m. 
troops of the 9th German division counter-attacked from south-west of the 
Beugnies Wood, while hostile artillery searched the ground in the vicinity of 
the road. The counter-attack was received with fire from every available 
machine-gun, Lewis gun, and rifle, and the hostile infantry was soon 

^ This was ascertained from a captured order. 



260 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY [Nov. 8th-9th 

dispersed. The German machine-gun detachments, however, continued to 
advance, but, after an obstinate fight which lasted for an hour and a-half, 
the 151st Brigade held its ground, and the enemy was completely repulsed. 
At 2.30 p.m. the 50th Division resumed the advance by moving forward the 
149th Brigade through the 151st Brigade, and by 4.30 p.m. Semousies and 
Floursies had been captured. At nightfall, an outpost line was established 
along the spur running north-east from Bas laeu, where touch was gained 
with the 32nd Division, and thence northward through the eastern 
outskirts of Semousies, Mont Dourlers, and Floursies. 

On the evening of November 8th infantry patrols along the whole 
army front reported that touch with the enemy's rearguards had been lost. 
Accordingly, at dawn on the 9th, the cavalry — Royal Scots Greys, 20th 
Hussars, and 12th Lancers — moved forward and gained touch with them 
at Sivry and along the Thure. They were supported by infantry, which 
reached Sains-du-Nord, Semeries, Felleries, Solre-le-Chateau, and Solrinnes. 

The dominant factor that decided the rate at which the pursuit of 
the enemy could be carried out was the question of supply. The main 
railway line between St. Quentin and Busigny had been 
The question of supply reconstructed, but the periodic explosions of delay 
action mines made it necessary frequently to use rail- 
heads fiuther back, such as Vermand, Bellicoiirt, and Montigny Farm. 
From these railheads supplies and ammunition had to be carried up by 
motor transport. The long distances involved, and the gradual breakdown of 
the roads as the weather became worse and the traffic grew heavier, threw 
an enormous strain on the motor transport. In several cases lorries were 
on the road for seventy-two consecutive hours, and it was difficult for the 
workshops to cope with the abnormal work of repair rendered necessary 
by the constant wear and tear and the bad condition of the roads. In the 
forward area, where the roads had been destroyed by mine craters, the 
infantry had outstripped the forward limit of lorries, and it became 
necessary to use additional horse transport from the ammunition columns ; 
it was qviite obvious, therefore, that if the army continued to advance 
a complete breakdown in the supply organisation must result before long. 

Consequently, on November 9th Sir Henry Rawlinson decided that 

the main bodies of corps should be distributed in depth on and west of 

the main La Capelle-Avesnes-Maubeuge road, with an 

BetheU's Force outpost line east of it. The enemy was in full retreat 
and no longer had the heart, or the power, to put up a 
strong resistance ; only a comparatively small force was, therefore, necessary 
to keep in touch with him. Accordingly a mobile force was organised, chiefly 
from the 66th Division, and was placed under the command of Maj.-Gen. 
H. K. BetheU.i 

' The detailed composition of BetheU's Force was as follows : — 

5th Cavalry Brigade. 1 Coy. 100th Battalion Machine Gun Corps. 

South African Brigade. 430th, 431st, 432nd Field Companies, R.E. 

17th Armoured Car Battalion. 1 Coy. 9th Gloucestershire (Pioneers). 

IX Corps Cyclist Battalion. 2 Squadrons, Royal Air Force. 

A/331 to B/331 Batteries, R.F.A. 2 Sections, D/331 Battery (4-5-in. howitzers). 

1 Anti-Aircraft Section. 1st South African Field Ambulance. 

On the 10th November the 199th Brigade was added to the force. 



November lOTH-llTH] THE LAST PHASE 261 

This force moved forward on the morning of November 10th and found 
the enemy in strength around Sivry and Hestrud. In accordance with 
The frontier of France Orders received from Army Headquarters, the attack 
reached on November was not pressed home, and at night Bethell's Force 
loth occupied a Une which ran approximately north and south 

through Sivry and Hestrud. Next morning some ground was gained by our 
troops before the cessation of hostihties. The enemy held out stubbornly 
in the vicinity of Hestrud, but the 20th Hussars were gradually working 
their way through Sivry. Just before 11 a.m. the enemy launched a 
small counter-attack against our troops who were forcing him back out 
of Grandrieu, but its only result was to add six more to the total of Ger- 
mans killed during the war. 

The troops had been warned about 7 a.m. that hostilities were to 
cease at 11 a.m. The firing, however, which had been hea\y all the morn- 
ing continued until three minutes to 11 a.m., when it 
11 a.m'^N^Tmb Tilth ^^^^ed for a short period and then broke out in a final 
crash at 11 a.m.i Then all was silence. Combatants 
from both sides emerged from cover and walked about in full view. No 
further act of hostility took place, nor was there any attempt at inter- 
course on either side. In accordance with the instructions received from 
the Commander-in-Chief, our troops stood fast on the line which they 
had gained at 11 a.m. At that time the line held by Bethell's Force 
ran from Mont Bliart through Martinsart Wood, roimd the eastern edge 
of Grandrieu, along the river Thure to the western outskirts of 
Cousolre.2 

Further north the Third, First, Fifth, and Second Armies had reached 
the general line Marpent — east of Mons-Jxirbise-Lessines-Grammont. 

The victory of November 4th and following days had finally broken 
the enemy's capacity for organised resistance. During the fighting he 
had reinforced his line in front of the Fourth Army with seven divisions 
from reserve ; but these had been repeatedly engaged since August 8th ; 
exhausted by heavy losses and insufficiently rested, they no longer 
possessed the fighting qualities necessary to stem the advance of vic- 
torious troops. It was the same all along the British front. The German 
officers had lost faith and shared with their men the general feeling of 
hopelessness, 3 and even of bitter blame towards the German High Com- 
mand for uselessly prolonging the war. The moral of the great German 
Army had been shattered. In these circumstances the German nation 
had no option but to accept the terms of the Alhes. 

' The final act of a German machine-gunner, always our most formidable opponent through- 
out the war, is worthy of record. At two minutes to 11, a machine-gun, about 200 yards from our 
leading troops, fired off a complete belt without a pause. A single machine-gunner was then seen 
to stand up beside his weapon, take off his helmet, bow, and turning about walk slowly to the 
rear. 

- The portion of the front just west of Mont Bliart and Sautain was the most easterly point 
reached by British troops at the time of the armistice 

' The following extract from a letter by a German company commander was typical o( 
many : — 

" The men have been in the same clothes, dirty, lousy, and torn for four weeks, are 

suffering from bodily filth and a state of depression due to living continuously within range of 

the enemy's guns, and in daily expectation of an attack. The troops are hardly in a fit state 

to fulfil the task allotted to them in the case of an attack." 



262 THE STORY OF THE FOURTH ARMY [Nov. hth 

So ends the story of the Fourth Army in its last campaign of the 
Great War. Between August 8th and November 11th it engaged and 
defeated 67 German Divisions, and this was accomphshed by 24 British, 
Australian, Canadian, and American Divisions. ^ During this period 
79,743 prisoners, including 1,848 officers, and 1,108 guns were captured, 
while the losses of the Fomth Army were 122,427 killed, wounded, and 
missing. This is probably a unique record, when it is remembered that no 
account is taken in these figures of the very large number of Germans who 
were killed and wounded.^ 

■ Twelve British, 5 Australian, 4 Canadian, and 3 American. Tliis does not include the 17th 
Division, which held the line for a few days in August, but took no part in any attack while with 
the Fourth Army. In addition to the twenty-four infantry divisions, the Cavalry Corps was 
engaged on the Fourth Army front, once as a corps of three divisions and once as a corps of two 
divisions. See Diagram III and Appendices C and D. 

^ Their losses must have been heavy, as the fighting was on occasion very severe, and the 
dead actually buried amoimted to a large total. 



DIAGRAM 



To face page 262. 



TH ARMY 



















































CORPS 


DIV 


JULY 




NOVEMBER 1 


OIV 


29 


30 3 


' 


2 


2. ,;^ „ T? - 


1» 15 16 17 


s„| 


20 2 


Y 


23 


2* 2 


S 28 


27 


26 2C 


30 3 1 t 2 


1 3 ' 4 1 5 e 1 7 e 9 


10' 11 


ni 


47 












T 
























1 — r 






47 


58 










l-±: 


































58 


3rdCav 






ToC\ 


V C' r 


































3r<JCav 


33Am{lBde 












































ii}Ba8j3Ain 


12 


afCorp'. 








































12 


18 


Jl 










































18 


74 












































74 


5'*'Bife2"''Ca 












































5*Bae2"-<IC« 


6 












































6 


46 




































' I 


1 




46 


50 












^ 




























50 




2ndAus 












- 
































2nd Aus 


3rdAus 






































1 






3rd Aus 


4th Aus 










































4th Aus 


SthAus 










































5th Aus 


1st Aus 




Fron 


2'"'^'rm>i 1 1 1 
































1st Aus 


17 






Fn 


0^,3^1 . \ 






















I 










17 




3SAm jgBiie 












































g)Bae33Am 


Liaison Forte 












































UaisonRjree 


32 
















1 — 




























32 


IstCdn 












































IsLCdn 


4th Cdn. 












































4th.Cdn 


5**'Bae2"'ka 












































S*ed£2n<lC«y: 


CANADIAN 


2nd.C<in 


- 






































-4— 




2nd Cdn 


3rd Cdn 










































3rd Cdn 


IstCdn 












































1st Cdn 


4th. Cdn 












































4th Cdn 


32 






From2"f. 


































32 


CAVALRY 


3rd.Cav 


m 


Corp. 


^ ] \ h 


"o 3^/ rmy 
























1 1 






3rdCav 


Ist.Cav. 






From^^OA, 
























7 


5" 


Arn 


'/ 




1st Cav 


2nd Cav- 
4th Guards Bdi 






from 3'^/! J 
















1 




1 












2ndCav 






- \ \ 
















To L.c 


fc.\ 1 11 




1 


1 




4thGuanls8di 


IX 


12 






To n) cqi : , 






1 ' 1 








1 


'Ml ! 




1 ' 


12 


18 






To 


Iff Cor \ ! 1 














1 






18 


32 






















1 








1 


, ; . 




32 


1 










-I/ Ffen 


c/i 






























1 


6 




























i 1 














6 


46 












































46 


5*Biie2^v 






























1 












?'Sie2'^ 


XIII 


25 




























-TT 


-'— 1 r 




-+- 








25 


66 


































1 










66 


50 




































1 








50 


18 










4_ 


































IS 


Bethells Ft>rc< 


















-4—1— 






! I 




: ; 


! 




^■- "^iC Fores 




27 Am 










Jl I 1 








"tl 












-T- ■ 






1 




27Am 




30 Am 






-- 


.^11,1 


IL 




1 1 


1 1 




— 1— 




■( — 


-IL 


X 






1 




30 Am 



I I In Line I Icorps Reserve LJ/* 



1 


COUPS 


0,. 


5 




n 


c 






























TARTAN 




DIAGRAM 




S 


D 

3 


)WING 

JKIKC 


THE 

THE 


EMPLOYMENT OF 
BATTLtS OF THE 


FORMATIONS 
HUNDi^ED 


IN THE 
3AVS 

1 


FOURTH 


ARMY 

P C T O 




















DIAGRAM 

To 


III. 

/ace pag